Sometimes the sports media gets so caught up in competition, we lose sight of what really matters—the people underneath the jerseys.
For the UCLA football program, an exciting offseason and spring practice was dampened by some dreadfully disturbing news. Cornerback Marcus Rios will miss at least six months, and possibly the entire 2013 season, due to a very serious fungal infection.
Prior to the start of spring practice, head coach Jim Mora met with the media to discuss a number of issues, one of which was Rios’ status. Mora mentioned how Rios had lost a dangerous amount of weight since falling ill, and was physically incapable of playing as a result. At that time though, the expectation was that Rios would be ready for the fall. Now, it looks like he will be hard-pressed to make a quick comeback. And while that’s definitely bad news for the Bruins on the field, the least of their worries is football at this point.
Rios was initially diagnosed with a sinus infection back in October, but the issue worsened once doctors found fungus behind his eye and beneath his brain as well. The highly regarded sophomore out of Elk Grove, Calif. (Cosumnes Oaks) has already undergone six surgeries to remove the infection, and is lined up for a seventh within the next few weeks.
That alone is a frightening prospect, but it becomes absolutely nightmarish when the gravity of the condition comes to light. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rios gave some insight into just how deadly this particular ailment can be.
It’s very rare. Only 12 people have ever had it and eight of them have died. Two others recovered and then died later.
You don’t need me to tell you how scary that is. But in spite of the harrowing circumstances, Rios appears calm and collected on the surface. He knows all he can do is fight for his life, and he has the hope that everything will work out in his favor. If I were in Rios’ shoes, I’m not sure I’d be able to have the kind of positive outlook he has. It’s truly remarkable for an 18-year-old kid to have that much control over his emotions when facing life-threatening health complications. For that, the Bruin faithful applaud Rios—his bravery in such trying times is an inspiration to us all.
Without Rios in the mix, UCLA will be forced to rely even more heavily on the incoming freshmen in the secondary. Many expected Rios to be the odds-on favorite to start at CB across from Ishmael Adams, but that obviously can’t happen now. From a football perspective, the loss of Rios presents another hurdle for the Bruins to clear in preparation for next season. It’ll be a challenge for UCLA to overcome, but it pales in comparison to the battle that Rios has been fighting every day for the past seven months.
We can only hope that Marcus makes a complete recovery and regains the health of his youth. Everyone here at Go Joe Bruin wishes him well, and prays that we may see him in a UCLA uniform again someday in the near future.