Basketball and football were Chris McCoy’s two loves growing up in the small town of Villa Rica, Georgia, and deciding between the two as a teenager should have been the only worry he’d have to face.
But in the fall of 2001 at the age of 14, McCoy was given news that would forever change his life and force him to put his personal debate between his two favorite sports on hold.
“I started having these severe headaches and then in October I finally went and got an MRI and I found out that I had a [brain] tumor, so I had to go have surgery on that,” said McCoy after the last practice of Miami Dolphins rookie mini-camp. “I got it removed. It was a benign tumor so no cancer in it and it was a blessing because I’m still here. Really, I wasn’t nervous. I was as calm as I’d ever been because I knew God would take care of it so I wasn’t really thinking about it in a bad way.”
McCoy, who was taken by the Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft at linebacker from Middle Tennessee State, isn’t sure exactly where he got that strength from. But the safe bet would be from his mother, Levonia Miller, who continues to work a full-time job at a nearby Honda auto plant installing safety and security features on vehicles. With Chris being the youngest of eight children (five sisters and two brothers), she naturally was more protective of him and was pulling for him to choose basketball over football because she understood that sport better.
As it turned out, the doctors surmised that McCoy’s tumor could very well have been growing inside his brain since birth and was considered a slow-growing tumor. There was initial concern that though benign the tumor was dangerously close to the sensory part of his brain that controls speech and motor skills. So while she waited at the hospital during her son’s surgery, all sorts of thoughts raced through Levonia Miller’s mind until the doctor came out to talk to her.