John Metchie III walked across the practice field Tuesday morning, dressed in a green hoodie sweatshirt while carrying a bottled water and a coconut water.
The Texans' rookie wide receiver didn't get far before being enthusiastically greeted by his teammates and coaches. Metchie received a series of hugs and handshakes and warm sentiments. It was a reinforcement of the support Metchie has received since being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, the most curable form of the disease.
Since being diagnosed in July and placed on the reserve-football illness list Tuesday, Metchie has been apart from the team while receiving treatment for his illness. This marked his first practice he attended.
Metchie previously submitted an emotional video for the Texans to watch sharing what he's going through on the eve of training camp.
"We’ve been praying for John and watching him deal with a tough illness, but it’s good for the team to see him back," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "There is a brotherhood, and you care. He is family. Everybody, of course, realizes what John is going through. A visual means an awful lot. That special smile that he has, it was good for everybody to see it today.”
A second-round draft pick from Alabama, Metchie is still on the mend from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last season in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Whenever Metchie regains his health, he's expected to provide a dynamic presence to the offense.
For now, the focus is solely on his health.
“It was good, good to have his presence," Texans cornerback Steven Nelson said. "Some of the guys haven't seen him in a while. Just kind of want to see how he's doing and glad that he's in good spirits.
“It gave us a lot of hope to see him in good spirits. When you have cancer like that, that can bring, especially a young guy, down, anybody for that matter. But it was good seeing him.”
His teammates have been paying tribute to him, including wide receiver Jalen Camp delivering a convincing rendition of Metchie's trademark touchdown celebration during a 17-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints at NRG Stadium.
When Metchie scored touchdowns at Alabama he would pose in the end zone in a manner reminiscent of the crane kick from the Karate Kid movies.
It was a planned celebration as the Texans' wide receivers wanted to pay tribute to Metchie during his battle with leukemia. The first wide receiver to score a touchdown would carry out the celebration to honor Metchie, and the moment went to Camp.
“It means a lot, man," Texans offensive tackle Tytus Howard said. "He's going through a lot right now. The testimony to him that he's out here supporting us, what we've got going on. It was good to see him, and I hope I get a chance to catch up with him in the locker room.”
According to medical journals, APL is a "unique subtype of Acute Myeloid Leukemia with cells in the bone marrow that produce blood cells (red cells, white cells, and platelets) that do not develop and function normally. APL begins with one or more acquired changes (mutations) to the DNA of a single blood-forming cell. APL cells have a very specific abnormality that involves chromosomes 15 and 17, leading to the formation of an abnormal fusion gene PML/RARα. This mutated gene causes many of the features of the disease."
A common symptom of APL is bleeding due to reduced numbers of platelets and deficiencies in clotting factors. That symptom can be life-threatening and has to be managed by medical supervision to prevent complications and treat the disease.
A common treatment for APL is a highly successful drug called ATRA (all-trans retinoic acid) to target the chromosomal abnormality. Because of advances in treatment, cure rates of 90% have been reported from medical centers specializing in APL treatment.
"Recently, I was diagnosed with APL (Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia), the most curable form of Leukemia," Metchie said in a statement before camp. "I am currently receiving great medical care, am in good spirits, and I expect to make a recovery at a later point in time.
"As a result of this diagnosis, I will likely not be playing football this season. My main focus will be on my health and recovery. Thank you in advance for your support and well-wishes. I cannot wait to come back stronger than ever. God bless."
For the Texans' players, seeing Metchie was inspirational.
“It was awesome," linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said. "I can’t even imagine what he’s going though. To see him out and see him doing so well, is amazing. Such a blessing. He’s such a great guy.
“It makes us take a look at all of us. We take this for granted a lot and for a guy like Metchie just to wake up one day and his whole life is different, for now. It’s a blessing to be out here and were excited to see him grow and continue to get better.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.