Tampa Catholic High senior Daniel Scheerhorn wasn't trying to become the next Vince Lombardi. He simply wanted to say something that would inspire his classmates and friends to do their best.
Little did he know his words would influence one of the greatest teams in Tampa Catholic High boys basketball history.
Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., the Crusaders (21-8) will play Orlando Jones in the Class 3A state semifinals at The Lakeland Center. With a win, Tampa Catholic will play in the state championship Thursday night.
Before the TC's regular-season game against longtime rival Jesuit High in January, Scheerhorn, the team manager the last four years, said felt the urge to say something that would inspire the players. In three previous years with the team, he never spoke before a game. What better way to get their attention, he thought, than tell his life story?
At the age of 7, Scheerhorn was diagnosed with brain cancer and surgery and intense chemotherapy left him physically unable to play sports. As a result of his radiation treatment, Scheerhorn developed aplastic anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant, which he received from his brother a year later. The treatment also destroyed the hearing in his left ear.
He told the players he wished he could play with them and that they should always do their best.
There wasn't a dry eye in the locker room.
"I'm not sure what made me do it," Scheerhorn said. "I wanted to try something to make them feel better. If they hear it from a friend instead of a coach, it would make them play better."
"Some of the guys said, "Coach, I don't know if I can go out there and play now" because they were all so emotional," Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said.
Since that night, Scheerhorn has spoken before every game. He'll do the same tonight prior to Tampa Catholic's biggest game of the season.
When he arrived at Tampa Catholic as a freshman, Daniel's mother wanted to see him involved in some kind of activity. After talking with the school's athletic director, it was suggested he work with the basketball team as its manager.
"I've made a bunch of friends on the team and it was an easy way to make friends," he said.
Win or lose tonight, being a part of the team is something Scheerhorn, who will attend Saint Leo University in the fall, will never forget.
"I'll remember I was with an awesome group of friends, doing something I wish I could do," he said.