Beloved HS football coach battling cancer gets uplifting message from Tom Brady

By: Christine McCarthy

Updated:

UPTON, Mass. -- A local high school football coach who has been battling pancreatic cancer received a heartfelt message from Tom Brady ahead of the team’s championship game.

Derek Yancik, who is a teacher and coach at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, has missed much of school and his team’s undefeated football season since he was diagnosed with the disease shortly after Thanksgiving last year.

But Yancik began returning to games about a month ago as he started feeling better. On Saturday, he plans to be with his boys for their Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.

One of Yancik’s players, sophomore Zack Snyder, reached out to the Patriots quarterback earlier this month on Facebook, asking Brady if he would stop by the team’s game and meet his beloved coach.

“I decided, since it was Yancik’s dream to meet Brady to reach out to him, tell him his story, and see if we could get him to the Super Bowl to meet him,” Zack said. “Honestly, it was amazing. I thought it would never happen.”

Brady sent an email to Zack and his school’s superintendent, Zack told Boston 25 News after practice in Grafton Wednesday. Enclosed was a personal message by video for Coach Yancik.

“What’s up, Coach Yancik?” Brady says in the video. “I just wanted to say that we’re thinking of you. I know what you’re going through. I wish I was here to meet you when you guys are here playing at Gillette Stadium, playing for the state championship. We’re headed off to Buffalo, but I wanted to wish you the very best of luck. Not only in the game, but with everything. We’re thinking of you. Best of luck. Take care.”

“It’s really quite something,” Yancik, a lifelong Patriots fan, said of the message. “It brought a tear to my eye.”

“I was speechless,” football player Sam Houle, a sophomore, said. “I was like, such a great player and big player reaching out to a little tech school like us. It’s amazing.”

The message is personal for Brady, whose own mother was battling cancer last season. Coach Yancik offered a message of support in return to Brady.

“I just want to say, I saw what your mother went through last year, and it’s really touched me,” Yancik said, in tears. “And I hope the best for you, Tom.”

Yancik’s students from the HVAC class he teaches and his football players have organized events in support of him, including a walk to fight pancreatic cancer in Boston earlier this month.

They told Boston 25 News that Coach Yancik’s fight will give them strength during their championship game against a strong contender, Mashpee, on Saturday.

“He’s such a strong guy,” junior Alex Tashjian said. “He’s just like another father to us. He’ll help us during tough times.”

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