On Nov. 26, 2022, sophomore linebacker Kevin Winegar and his team won the Arizona state high school football 3A championship. Two and a half weeks later, Kevin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, according to 12 News.

When the Arizona Cardinals heard Kevin’s story, they decided to honor him with a special surprise. During a ceremony in the gym of Eastmark High School in Mesa, Arizona, on Friday, the team gifted him with two tickets to the Super Bowl, which will be played in the Cardinals’ stadium next month.

Cardinals players Dennis Gardeck, Michael Dogbe, Jonathan Ledbetter and Manny Jones joined Nicole Bidwell, the sister of team owner Michael Bidwell, in presenting Kevin with the tickets.

“The fact that he had a battle outside of football and still competed at a high level while still being a high-school student is inspiring. He encouraged all of us to have strength in life,” Dogbe told Kevin Parrish Jr. of AZCardinals.com.

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Kevin’s mother, Doorly Winegar, had known about the surprise, she told ABC 15.

“It’s better than Christmas,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep all night. It was just the biggest secret I could ever keep.”

The Cardinals also presented Kevin with a signed NFL Crucial Catch helmet. Crucial Catch is the NFL’s program to “fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction,” according to the league’s website.

Kevin had been experiencing knee pain during the season, which was assumed to be football-related until he started developing fevers, Parrish reported. The sophomore could have been playing at least six games of the season, including the state championship, with leukemia without even knowing it.

“I had fevers, night sweats, loss of appetite, loss of weight and just chills often,” Kevin told 12 News. “I would be in the classroom just shaking my butt off. As that started to progress, so did the knee and the hip pain and joint pain.”

Kevin has finished his first round of chemotherapy in what is expected to be a two year treatment plan. Through the diagnosis and treatment, he has relied on his faith, he told 12 News.

“I know God was there with me during that game, and he definitely helped me with my pain, and I was able to play most of the title game and get through this,” Kevin said. “And because of God, I can get through this stage of my life as well.”

Kevin told 12 News that his leukemia is only a temporary setback and is not the end of his football career.

“I just thought, ‘man, this sucks,’ but I can get through this, and I’ve even been playing football with it,” Kevin said.