Radford athlete makes his comeback after cancer diagnosis

Eric Burdette returns to practice after five months of chemotherapy

RADFORD, Va. – What should have been Eric Burdette's senior dream season turned into a nightmare.

Instead of spending his days on the gridiron with his friends, he was in a hospital room undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.

"The first time that he told us, he had gone to his X-rays. He came back up to the practice field to some of the coaches. He said, 'Coach, I got bad news. I have cancer, but it's going to be OK I'll be back by baseball season,'" said Radford high school varsity baseball coach Greg Ridpath.

"That was my goal from the beginning, was that I could come back for baseball. I knew I was going to be able to, so it's awesome that I can," said Burdette.

Though he was unable to participate, Burdette went to every football game he could. Even during his battle with cancer, he showed up at baseball workouts.

"You could see the chemo was taking a toll on him, and he started to lose some weight. He came out and tried to lift what he could lift, didn't let anyone know that he couldn't do what he couldn't do," Ridpath said.

Burdette had five months of chemotherapy, and in mid-January he heard the news he's been hoping for since his diagnosis: He's in remission. 

"I prayed every night for it. The day I heard it, I cried like a baby. I'm not going to lie. But it's so nice after battling six months I finally got the word: clear, good to go," Burdette said.

At the beginning of his fight, the football team rallied around Burdette. As the seasons changed from summer to fall, the black and gold quickly faded to purple, to raise awareness for Hodgkin lymphoma. This spring, the Radford baseball team is honoring Burdette as well, with purple hats and jerseys.

"I wanted to do this for him, and we're going to do it long after Eric is gone. So we have some purple jerseys. They have E.B. on the sleeve. We have some purple hats, and we are going to try to do a benefit game every year," Ridpath said.

"I couldn't even believe it. It's just so nice that I get to leave a legacy and help other people who have what I have," Burdette said.

With a new year and a clean bill of health, Burdette has a new outlook on life. And his comeback is in full swing.

"Now I find myself looking at a good picture or looking at the scenery, because you just realize that your time is limited and I've been granted to live that much longer, when I thought I had cancer."

Burdette continues to be an inspiration to his community, coaches and teammates.

"I think it's only a matter of time before he realizes what an impact he has on this team," said teammate Roman Bonet.

Burdette continues to try to get his strength back and return to the diamond this spring. He'll take it one base at a time, because finally, it's baseball season.