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AC In The AM: Cleats Saluting DCC and RISE

Some of the messages delivered through “My Cause, My Cleats” on Sunday will really hit home. Like Andre Branch honoring the Ross Initiative For Sports Equality (RISE) and Sam Young honoring the Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC). These are two important causes: to Steve Ross as an owner, to the Dolphins as an organization, to South Florida as a community and certainly to these two players.

With Ross heading the initiative, so many of the Dolphins players have embraced RISE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. It’s a credit to Branch that he decided to make this his cause, using his cleats to help spread the word about the impact RISE is already having and will have in the future in so many valuable ways.

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As for Young he is the only Dolphins player on the Board of Directors of the DCC and the battle to fight cancer is something he has embraced for a long time, the disease hitting him close to home.

“Cancer has affected not only family members of mine, but loved ones and close friends as well,” Young said. “There is a desperate need for funding. Partnering with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is so important because they are on the forefront of research and finding a cure. I throw my full weight behind this cause. It’s local. I’m from the community. It just makes sense for me.”

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Branch and Young are just two of the many stories being told through “my cleats my cause” on Sunday. Sometimes it’s about commitment, like what Branch and Young are doing for RISE and the DCC. Other times it’s about sacrifice, in some cases about heartbreak.

Yes, written on their cleats. But coming from their hearts.

Here are four more of those stories:

Torry McTyer - Remembering Kenny Keys

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Cornerback Torry McTyer received the phone call in training camp. It was a call he never wanted to get.

His good friend and former teammate Kenny Keys had committed suicide. For a second, McTyer just didn’t want to believe it. They started together in the UNLV secondary for four seasons. It didn’t make sense. Does it ever make sense?

“I was shocked,” McTyer says today. “I never expected something like that.”

So this Sunday, McTyer will wear the name “Kenny Keys’ on his cleats. He’ll be playing for suicide prevention. If only he could have prevented that suicide.

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“You always feel like you could have done something different,” McTyer says. “It’s a helpless feeling. But I want people to know who Kenny Keys is. I want people to realize that things like this are happening everywhere and they can be prevented.”

It’s too late for Kenny Keyes. But it’s not too late to remember. Or to try and learn from it.

“If I make a big play Sunday,” McTyer says, “it’s definitely for Kenny.”

Cornerback Torry McTyer received the phone call in training camp. It was a call he never wanted to get.

His good friend and former teammate Kenny Keys had committed suicide. For a second, McTyer just didn’t want to believe it. They started together in the UNLV secondary for four seasons. It didn’t make sense. Does it ever make sense?

“I was shocked,” McTyer says today. “I never expected something like that.”

Jason Sanders - Military Appreciation

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Placekicker Jason Sanders comes from a military family. His father Tom was an Air Force engineer. His brother Matthew is an Air Force explosive device expert stationed in Dover, Delaware. His brother Andrew is an Air Force mechanic stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

No surprise here that his cleats will be saluting military service.

“With my family, it’s in our blood,” Sanders said.

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Sanders will tell you that if his right foot wasn’t so powerful, he very well could have joined his brothers by now. Instead, it will be him honoring them on Sunday.

Andrew’s name will be on his cleats. He’ll also be sitting in the stands for the first time.

“Means the world to me that he’ll be here,” Sanders said. “He’s one of my biggest fans.”

Leonte Carroo - Pancreatic Cancer Research

The Yankovich family of Altoona, Pennsylvania adopted wide receiver Leonte Carroo in high school. In so many ways, they saved his life.

Nobody was kinder to him than Uncle Greg, the brother of Carroo’s adopted mother.

Uncle Greg was his biggest fan. Attended all of his games. Loved to talk football.

And then suddenly he was gone, the victim of pancreatic cancer. “It happened so fast,” Carroo recalls today. “He fought as hard as he could as long as he could. But that’s one disease you just can’t beat.”

Carroo will be playing for pancreatic cancer research in Sunday’s game. He’ll have Uncle Greg’s name written in purple on his cleats. Every catch is for him.

“It’ll be emotional,” he says. “The man just meant so much to me.”

Jake Brendel - Living For Zachary

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The foundation is called “Living for Zachary.”

On Sunday, offensive guard Jake Brendel will be playing for Zachary, a former high school teammate who in 2009 died on the Plano (Texas) East High School football field.

Brendel was standing just a few feet away. There was nothing he could do to help.

"He just collapsed and started shaking,” Brendel recalls as if it were yesterday. “Then he was gone.”

Zachary Schraw died of sudden cardiac arrest.

“It was crazy,” Brendel recalls. “He worked his butt off every day. And then….”

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If only they could have treated him earlier. If only they had better equipment near by to deal with this type of emergency. That, in part, is why Schraw’s mother began the “Living for Zachary” foundation.

They held their annual banquet earlier this year in Dallas. Jake Brendel was the guest speaker.

“If there was an AED (automated external defibrillator) nearby, it could have saved Zachary’s life, might have brought his heart back to life,” Brendel said. “The foundation is trying to make sure the next time that happens, a life can be saved.”

When Brendel came to the Dolphins his uniform number was 60. Always had been. But that number was taken so Brendel was arbitrarily given 64 instead.

Guess whose number that was in high school?

The same person whose name will be written on Brendel’s cleats this Sunday afternoon.

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