Texans offensive assistant Marc Lubick had a year-long bout with a rare form of cancer in 2006.
At first glance, new Texans offensive assistant Marc Lubick is a fresh-faced young coach, the son of a Colorado coaching legend who worked his way up from the college ranks to the NFL.
There's much more to the story than that.
Lubick, who joined the Texans' coaching staff in February, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma in 2006. The soft-tissue cancer is normally found in children and teenagers; Lubick was 28 at the time.
"An oncologist who diagnosed me told me she thought I was probably the oldest person to have this form of cancer that she had heard of in the past 20 years," Lubick said. "It wasn't hereditary - it was completely random. The oncologist said it was like being struck by lightning."
Lubick started getting sick during the 2005 season at CSU, experiencing chronic back pains and other aches. His doctor thought it was a bad infection. Lubick thought he was simply getting out of shape.
He spent the 2005 season on antibiotics to manage the pain, but that pain became excruciating after CSU's bowl game in late December. In mid-February, Lubick went back to the hospital and had a biopsy. It led to his shocking diagnosis of cancer.
"When I first got diagnosed, the doctors had never seen it, and they didn't think they could treat it," Lubick said. "They kind of gave me a death sentence where they said, 'If we can't treat this disease, I'm not sure how much longer you're going to be around,' so there were two weeks there where I thought I could pass away at any moment."
Since none of the doctors in Fort Collins had seen rhabdomyosarcoma, they sent Lubick to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota that had several world-renowned doctors with experience in treating it.
Lubick spent the next six months going through chemotherapy, along with 25 days of radiation treatment. He had three surgeries, one of which removed 13-14 lymph nodes in his back. He split his time between the pediatric ward of the Mayo Clinic and a children's hospital in Denver.
"Out of those six months, I probably spent about a third of the time in the hospital overnight, either recovering from surgery or recovering from treatment," Lubick said. "The three surgeries I had were to take all the cancer out physically, and the chemo and radiation were kind of ways to attack the body so the cancer doesn't come back."
Four years later, the cancer hasn't come back. Lubick gets check-ups twice a year and says that his results and scans have been very positive. Other than scars from the surgeries and the loss of some feeling in his fingertips and toes from the chemo, Lubick feels no ill effects from the cancer or his treatment.
"It all kind of puts things in perspective where each day is now a gift," he said. "Especially being treated at two children's hospitals, you see a bunch of kids from newborns to teenagers to younger that have it a lot tougher than I do. It makes you really appreciate what you have."
Throughout his bout with cancer, Lubick tried to maintain an active role as the CSU wide receivers coach. Texans wide receiver David Anderson, a senior at CSU in 2005, remembers it vividly.
"He would go to the hospital and then he was coming to see us a couple days after," Anderson said. "I didn't expect to see him until maybe the season was done, but he was showing up and trying to coach us up. I'm like, 'Man, get home and get healthy.' He's just a battler. He always wanted to be a part of the team."
After Lubick's diagnosis and subsequent treatment, he missed most of spring ball in 2006 and was too weak and limited to do much in the way of coaching during the summer. It took its toll on the team, especially considering that Marc's father, Sonny Lubick, was then in his 14th year as the head coach at CSU.
"It was a tough time," said Texans guard Mike Brisiel, a senior at CSU in 2006. "Everybody considers the staff and players to be an extended family, so you never want to see something like that going on."
The second game of CSU's 2006 season was against in-state rival Colorado. Lubick was too sick to take the team bus to the game in Denver, but he showed up at the stadium an hour before kickoff to perform his coaching duties. He said he was "pretty much" able to revert back to normal after that.
But as the season wore on, Lubick wore down. He had to sit in the press box for the last three games of the year. His platelet level had dropped to the point where if he was incidentally hit on the sidelines, doctors told him it would've caused internal bleeding that wouldn't have stopped.
"I remember he got a little worn down and there were some times where it was kind of scary, but it just shows you what kind of character the guy's got," Brisiel said. "He beat it and now he's here, and it's really amazing.
"It was just inspiring. It's an inspiring, true-life story. You hear them all the time, but I'd never been around somebody like that. He's one of those guys, he never quits, he never stops working, and I'm so excited he's on the staff because I know he's going to work his butt off."
Lubick's role as offensive assistant will be helping to deal with the minutiae of the Texans' passing game playbook. He'll draw routes and break down opponents during the season and will work with the team's receivers and quarterbacks.
He arrived in Houston already familiar with several Texans coaches and players. Lubick got to know Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive line coach John Benton while at Colorado State and was a scout with the St. Louis Rams from 2003-04, when defensive line coach Bill Kollar was also with the team.
Lubick coached four current Texans players at CSU in Anderson, Brisiel, tight end Joel Dreessen and defensive end Jesse Nading.
"It definitely makes the transition easier, just seeing some familiar faces," Lubick said. "For me, it's kind of a fun deal where I saw all four of these players in high school. We recruited them. I was able to watch their careers develop over the years, so now it's a good opportunity for me to work with them here in the NFL and see how they've progressed."
The Texans' former CSU players are excited to see how Lubick has progressed as a coach, too. His father, Sonny, was so successful at CSU - winning more than 100 games and six conference championships - that the field at the school's stadium is named after him.
"Sonny Lubick is an incredible guy," Brisiel said. "He's one of the most sincere people I've ever been around. He shoots from the hip, he doesn't B.S. you a ton and he's one of those guys you can't help but respect.
"With Marc, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say. I'm really just excited to have him here. I think he'll do a heck of a job for us."