Everyone has family, their blood relatives. But to most people, family doesn’t end with blood relation. Most people also have the family they “choose” - friends so close to you, you see them as a brother or sister.
Nothing rings more true for Quadree Henderson and Chad Jones II.
20-year-old Henderson is a star wide receiver at Pittsburgh. Ask him, and he will tell you that 15-year-old Jones is his little brother.
The two of them met playing in the same youth football league in Wilmington, Delaware. The pair’s bond seemed inevitable. Jones is a quarterback and Henderson a receiver. Running routes brought them together and created an unbreakable brotherhood. In an ESPN article, Henderson puts it in perspective just how strong their bond is:
"Our relationship is very strong, watching him grow up and teaching him right from wrong."
From the start, Henderson scooped Jones under his wing and Jones looked up to him, idolizing him as any little brother does to their older brother.
They are brothers, nobody can argue that.
But in 2012, tragedy struck then 11-year-old Chad Jones II. Noticing a pain in his hip, Jones headed to the doctor, only to receive devastating news. Doctors told him the one word that has the power to wreck anyone’s world: cancer.
The young quarterback was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma. The cancer had invaded his skull, arms and legs. With the initial diagnosis, Jones was given a 60 percent chance of survival.
Jones started chemotherapy and radiation as his family, Henderson included, started to watch his battle take its toll on him.
"Watching him go through all that, go through treatments, it hurt to watch him be so strong one day and two weeks later start losing hair," Henderson told ESPN. "I hurt, and I knew I couldn't let him down. It was my responsibility to help pick him up."
Jones’ big brother saw a need for support and was determined to do all he could to show his little brother that he had his back.
The number on an athlete’s back can mean a lot to them. To the point for some, that they never want to change it. For Henderson, he saw a bigger picture than one number. So for him, changing his number was the right thing to do.
Seeing that his little brother needed to know he wasn’t going to let him down, without hesitation, then in high school, Henderson changed his number to a number special to Jones: 10. He went further to inscribe the initials CJ on his cleats and mouth piece.
Jones let ESPN in on how much Henderson’s actions truly meant to him:
"When I was diagnosed, he wore my number as a tribute to me. That was close to my heart and why we're bonded forever. It meant a lot. It was warming to show he cared. He knew No. 10 was important to me, and the fact he continues to wear it even after that year leaves me speechless."
That’s right, Henderson still continues to wear number 10, even now that he’s in college, breaking records at Pitt.
Quadree Henderson leads the country in kickoff return touchdowns, return average and yards per rush.
About a year after his diagnosis, Chad was declared cancer-free. Now a varsity high school quarterback, Jones makes as many of his big brother’s games as he can.
Henderson and Jones share a bond that’s stronger than blood.
For Henderson, it’s all about making his family proud, and showing his "little brother" that he’s got his back, and quite literally. With the number 10 still on his back, Henderson is doing just that.
Lead Image Credit: Quadree Henderson's Instagram