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Crucial Catch Campaign Personal For Seahawks CB Neiko Thorpe 
Having seen up close the pain cancer can inflict, Neiko Thorpe embraces the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative. 
By John Boyle Oct 10, 2020

This is the Seahawks Gameday Magazine feature story for Week 5 of the 2020 season, presented by Gatorade. Visit our Game Center for more information related to Week 5 vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

Neiko Thorpe won't be on the field when the Seahawks host the Vikings Sunday night for what will be the team's annual Crucial Catch game. 

But even though the veteran cornerback won't be able to suit up due to injury, he'll be very invested in this weekend's game, not just because he wants to see his team and his teammates succeed, but also because he has a strong appreciation for what the NFL does each October with its NFL Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer initiative. 

One of the main goals of the Crucial Catch campaign is to promote early detection, and Thorpe, who has seen up close through friends and family the pain cancer can inflict, is fully on board with the early detection message. When he was in ninth grade, Thorpe was there to support his close friend, Desmond Clark, after Clark lost his mother to cancer. As a young man early in his NFL career, Thorpe lost his aunt, Cheryl Walker, to cancer, a woman he said, "was like a second mom to me." 

And while those experiences brought a lot of pain to Thorpe and his loved ones, it also gave him a perspective he knows a lot of people not closely affected by cancer might not have. 

"Just take it serious," Thorpe said. "(Cancer) came into my life in ninth grade, but if that didn't happen, I could easily see myself not being aware of it, not taking this as seriously. I want to spread the word, get your checkups, let your uncles know, your aunties, your grandparents, just make sure everybody you love, ask them, 'You get your checkup?' It's not that hard. It's simple, it's painless." 

Before the NFL launched the Crucial Catch campaign and focused on breast cancer during October, Thorpe would sport pink shoes, wristbands and gloves, and in more recent years he has worn a variety of colors that represent cancers that can be detected early, including: 

Navy: Colon Cancer
Pink: Breast Cancer
Lavender: All Cancers
Teal: Cervical Cancer
Blue: Prostate Cancer
Gold: Childhood Cancers
White: Lung Cancer

If Thorpe were playing, he would again be wearing various colored wrist bands representing those cancers in Sunday's Crucial Catch game, which is just part of a month of cancer awareness activities that are part of the Seahawks' Crucial Catch initiative in partnership with Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan.

Thorpe also represented the American Cancer Society, along with Black Lives Matter, with his shoes during in recent years for "My Cause, My Cleats" games. 

"I try to support awareness for all the different colors to represent people going through it, let them know they have support from people who are thinking of praying for them, because I've definitely been affected in my life," Thorpe said, "It's pretty cool that the league is doing this, keeping it going, letting people know they're not battling alone. That's the most important part. There's people they don't even know we're rooting for them and praying for them." 

When Thorpe's friend Clark lost his mother, he was too young to fully process the loss, but he knew he had to support his friend. He's glad he was there for Clark, and for his family when is aunt died, and for a college teammate who lost his mother to cancer after they were both in the NFL, but Thorpe also wants people to know that, with early detection, some loses can be prevented before they happen.  

"Man, it was tough, it was super tough," Thorpe said of trying to be there for Clark when the two were still teenagers. "I was just thankful that I was able to be with him at that time. Stuff like that happens, there's nothing you can really say to anyone. You don't really want to cheer them up, you just want to be there for them, let them know they're not alone… I was just sad as hell, but so thankful that I could be there for my boy, just hold him and let him know she's looking down on him, she's happy, she's not in pain anymore. Just let him know I'm here for him. 

"It's an experience I don't think you can ever prepare for, you've just got to hopefully be around people who love on you, because you're going to need it." 

Thorpe was there for loved ones when cancer struck, but his hope is that for at least some people, those tragedies can be prevented. 

"It's better in the long run for sure to go get checked, especially if you catch something you didn't know about," he said. "A lot of cancer doesn't have symptoms, or its symptoms we don't notice. I'm definitely pushing that awareness to get checked before it's too late. And hey, take somebody with you."

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