Weston Richburg’s eyes began to well up when he talked about 9-year-old Jayro Ponce, whose situation is grim as he battles a rare form of cancer.
“It’s not looking too good right now,” the Giants center said Thursday, when he and his teammates reported for the start of training camp. “My prayers are with him. I would encourage everyone to pray for him and keep your thoughts on him and his family.”
Richburg has drawn inspiration from the little boy from the Texas panhandle town of Follett, about 150 miles from Amarillo and just a few miles farther from Richburg’s hometown, Bushland. After hearing about Ponce’s story, Richburg visited him in April. Just last week, Jayro got a visit from none other than Odell Beckham Jr., who responded to a plea from Richburg’s father on social media to see Jayro.
Earlier this month, doctors told Jayro and his family that he had only weeks to live. “The situation is not too good right now for Jayro,” said Richburg, who thinks of him often.
“Just the fact that a kid has gone through more than I’ve ever gone through in my 26 years, and he’s not even 10 years old,” Richburg said. “That just really touches me that somebody wants me to be a part of their lives.”
Jayro lives deep in the heart of Cowboys country, but he became a Giants fan in part because of Richburg but also because of Beckham, whose spectacular, one-handed catch against the Cowboys in a nationally televised game in 2014 made such a big impression. Jayro and his family were overcome with emotion when Beckham showed up.
“Just the fact that Odell took time out of his schedule, which I’m sure is busier than any one of us can even imagine,” Richburg said. “It was really cool to see Jayro, and it speaks volumes to the kind of person Odell is. He is a big Odell fan, and I was just tickled that Odell went and did that for him. That was a big deal.”
And Jayro is a big deal for Richburg.
“First off, the fact that he wants anything to do with me, when he’s going through that, shows you that people are always watching and you have an impact, whether you like it or not,” Richburg said. “He’s going through something that a lot of people never go through. Times like training camp, you think it’s tough, you can reflect on Jayro and what he goes through and take motivation from that.”
It is a season of expectations for the Giants, and Richburg welcomes the hype associated with a team that appears to have all the ingredients for a Super Bowl run. Whatever does happen, he surely will keep Jayro in his thoughts.
“We always talk about putting another trophy in the case,” Richburg said. “If our goal is anything other than that, there’s no point in being here. We’re in unison with that expectation, and we’re going to put in the work that’s necessary to try and get that done.”
The Giants come off an 11-5 season and their first playoff berth since their last Super Bowl season in 2011, but they were ousted by the Packers in the wild-card round.
“That’s over. It’s a new year,” Richburg said. “I’m ready to take our schedule this year and focus on that and not worry about last year.”
Richburg knows his little friend back in Texas may not see what happens at the end of the season, but he knows Jayro will be a part of what happens, even if only in spirit.
“I’m sure he wants to see us do well,” Richburg said, “and he wants to see Odell do a lot of dances in the end zone.”