On Sunday, Joel Heath will represent a relatively rare and unknown disease, sinus cancer. In the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign, the rookie defensive end will wear custom cleats to bring awareness and raise money for those diagnosed with sinus cancer, like his friend Conner Gelinas who was diagnosed two years ago.
“He currently is here getting treatment for sinus cancer,” Heath said. “Once he told me about it, I kind of latched onto him. When I found out what it was and the significance of it, I had to put it on the shoes.”
Heath, who has seen action in 7 games this year with two starts, met the now 21-year-old Gelinas through his coach Clif Marshall. Heath and Gelinas didn’t have much in common. The 6-6, 300-pound NFL player knew nothing about sinus cancer and Gelinas didn’t watch football.
It didn’t matter.
Heath visited the Gelinas family, who were renting a house in Houston while Conner received treatment. The two unlikely friends would talk and pray together. Gelinas even became a football fan.
“He watches me play now,” Heath said, laughing.
Impressed with the young man’s strength and calm spirit in the face of adversity, Heath wanted to use his platform to bring awareness and help fund research for the underrepresented disease that Gelinas battled every day.
“It’s special to make people more aware of what it really is and the significance of it,” Heath said.
Heath will wear his white and red custom cleats on Sunday, along with more than 500 players across the NFL who will also showcase their causes by wearing their shoes during the Week 13 games. Heath, along with custom designer Darwin Itzep of Airbrush Brothers, says his custom Nike cleats are white with red accents. He also incorporated the Revelation 5:12 Bible verse, “Worthy is the lamb” along with “Sinus Cancer” in his design.
In addition to wearing their custom cleats, players will also have the opportunity to raise funds for the cause of their choice by auctioning off their pair at the NFL Auction, where 100% of funds raised will be donated. Heath has chosen to raise money for the American Cancer Society.