Los Angeles Rams rookies Mike McAllister, Puka Nacua, and Alex Ward joined Rams Legend Chris Draft, Rams Cheerleaders and mascot Rampage to visit Hollywood High School to surprise cancer fighter and head football coach Alastair Jones as one of the team's Crucial Catch Captains presented by Cedars-Sinai. 'Coach Al' was presented with a personalized jersey and tickets to the team's 'Crucial Catch' game against the Philadelphia Eagles at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, October 8.
Jones expressed intense emotions following the surprise. "I'm tearing up, that's how I feel today."
Jones has been coaching football for over 20 years, working with youth and high school athletes. In mid-February, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and kidney failure. He's currently in a determined battle against cancer while simultaneously working to revive his kidneys.
Jones was overjoyed to be recognized as a Crucial Catch Captain. "What I have been going through for the last six months, with my situation, this right here just made me fight for what I'm fighting for and that's to beat cancer. This is a wonderful day. I feel amazing."
Despite his challenges with prostate cancer and kidney failure, Jones has continued to being energy and excitement for his team. Rams long snapper Alex Ward said, "To see the level of energy and passion he has not only for football, but for all his guys and the support around them, it's massive to see what he's been able to battle through."
Coaching has taken on a new level of importance for Jones. He draws strength from the passion and energy of his student-athletes, which fuels his fight against cancer.
Ward explained that Jones' experience as a coach has helped motivate him to win his battle with cancer. "Football is a metaphor for life. There's a lot of pain in both and a lot of perseverance. A lot of fighting through difficulty and adversity."
Having several personal ties to cancer, Ward was inspired by Jones and mentioned that he felt the world is a better place with him in it. Ward was also inspired by what the organization was able to do.
Two of his grandparents were diagnosed with cancer as well as his high school role model and teammate, Patrick Keefe, who lost his brain cancer battle exactly one year after being diagnosed. "The difference in both my grandmother, grandfather and Patrick is that my grandfather was able to get ahead of it. I think Crucial Catch is an amazing narrative from the NFL and where it struck home with me, to catch cancer early and make it really well known. I appreciate the NFL for that," said Ward. The Rams and Cedars-Sinai partnered to produce a short video sharing Ward's story.
Jones's surprise was one of the team's 12 Crucial Catch Captain surprises for cancer fighters and survivors throughout the Southern California region. All 12 Crucial Catch Captains were recognized on the field at the Rams-Eagles match-up and received a personalized game ball. Since 2020, the Rams have honored 40 cancer fighters and survivors through their Crucial Catch Captain initiative.
The NFL's Crucial Catch mission is to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction. The league, its clubs, players, the NFL Players Association, and the American Cancer Society are committed to providing individuals with the tools they need to help them better understand early detection and ways to reduce their cancer risk.
For more information about the Rams' community outreach efforts, visit www.therams.com/community.