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After beating cancer, Jack Rolle is Terps announcer Johnny Holliday's 'hero'

Pictured during Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Tip-off breakfast Tuesday: men's coach Mark Turgeon, John and Christine Lederer, Jack Rolle Jr. and Christopher Rolle, Tracie Rolle and Johnny Holliday.
Pictured during Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Tip-off breakfast Tuesday: men's coach Mark Turgeon, John and Christine Lederer, Jack Rolle Jr. and Christopher Rolle, Tracie Rolle and Johnny Holliday. (Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

COLLEGE PARK — As a freshman at Georgetown Prep last spring, Jack Rolle knew that it was going to be difficult making the golf team.

Rolle also knew something else: that he had already won a far tougher battle than it took for him to put together two solid rounds in the team's tryout.

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"I thought back to my fight with cancer," Rolle recalled Tuesday, speaking to those attending the 12th annual Coaches vs. Cancer breakfast at the University of Maryland. "Making the team seemed easy compared to what I had to deal with fighting cancer."

Rolle said he shot the second-best score in each of the two rounds and made the team.

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Diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer shortly before his 11th birthday, the now 16-year-old Rolle has been cancer-free for five years, according to his doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Speaking to a group of about 200 gathered at Xfinity Center's Heritage Hall, the grandson of longtime Maryland football and basketball play-by-play annouccer Johnny Holliday said that "cancer taught me I could reach any goal that I set for myself."

Holliday, who served as emcee for an event that he said had raised more than $400,000 before this year, called his grandson "my hero." Holliday said that Monday marked the fifth anniversary of Rolle's last treatment.

Though cancer-free, Rolle lost all function of his pituitary gland as a result of the tumor and radiation he endured. He now takes daily hormone shots to help him grow as well as medication to regulate his hormones, his thirst and his water balance in his body.

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"That will be lifetime for him, but in the scheme of things, that is so doable compared to kids who are blind or deaf, he doesn't have any motor issues and hasn't had any seizures," his mother, Tracie Rolle, said. "We're really fortunate."

Tracie Rolle, Holliday's daughter, said the second youngest of her four sons has spoken several times about his fight with cancer, first as a 10-year-old during a fundraising event at golfer Greg Norman's Shark Shootout tournament. The younger Rolle has also spoken before Congress.

"I think any child who goes through cancer or any sort of life-threatening illness is forced to grow up a lot faster," Tracie Rolle said. "Unfortunately they have to take on a little bit of an adult perspective. It's pretty heavy stuff that they're forced to digest and process. And at the same time, they're remarkably resilient."

Tuesday's speech "was a little tough" for him, she said, compared with others he had made, perhaps because it came so close to the anniversary of his last treatment.

Among those attending Tuesday's fundraiser were the parents of former Maryland men's basketball team manager Zach Lederer, who spoke at the same breakfast two years ago despite the return of the cancer that eventually took his life last spring at age 20.

"It was an amazing speech, he could hardly walk to the podium and did it with no notes and gave an unbelievable speech," Maryland men's coach Mark Turgeon said Tuesday.

The athletic department dedicated a new dressing room for the team managers last week in honor of Lederer.

"One of the things Zach really wanted was a place for managers to dress, because we stuck them in a storage room." Turgeon said. "Zach would be really proud of the room they have."

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