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Cudahy football player a light to everyone he meets; how they were there for him in his darkest hour

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CUDAHY -- His mission in life has always been to encourage and help everyone he meets -- but when Dylan Dooley faced the most frightening and difficult time in his life, they were there to help him make an incredible comeback.

"His heart and soul is in this community and he bleeds purple and gold," Max Wasikowski, Cudahy High School football coach said.

Dooley has been one of the most popular student-athletes ever to go through Cudahy High School.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

"Phenomenal character. One of those guys that walks in the room and lights it up," Nick Conrad, boys basketball coach at Cudahy High School said.

Dooley did that. Whether as team mascot or team photographer or announcer or fan -- he was at almost every game.

"You just gotta rally behind them -- come in the school burning passion and ready to go," Dooley said.

Dooley's unbridled enthusiasm for Cudahy Packers football started years ago.

"When I was in middle school -- I couldn't wait to one day put on the purple and gold uniform and play for Cudahy," Dooley said.

Injuries and surgeries derailed his career, but Dooley was determined to get on the field before the end of his senior season. He made it back for the final two games -- one of which was at home.

"That was the most amazing feeling of my life. Coming out of the tunnel, I got to carry the flag that we have and the whole city erupts. Nothing beats that," Dooley said.

Dooley had it all.

But in December of 2014, he had a life-altering experience. Pain from an injury led to tests that revealed he had a rare form of bone cancer -- Ewing's sarcoma.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

"Ribs, my shoulder, my collarbone -- everywhere pretty much," Dooley said. "My first initial thought was death."

Dooley had to have a bone marrow transplant. He spent a month-and-a-half in the hospital. Many tears were shed. He became depressed. But before long, Dooley attacked cancer treatment with the spirit that has defined his young life.

Dooley describes it as his mentality taking over.

"It said 'we need to take the bull by the horns and ride out the storm, and just take every moment of your life like it's your last moment,'" Dooley said.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

Dooley didn't have to face his battle alone.

"I was getting texts from Texas, Florida, East Coast, West Coast -- just everybody supporting me and saying 'hey, we're here fighting for you and with you,'" Dooley said.

So was everybody at Cudahy High School.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

Fundraisers were held to help Dooley's family, including a "Coaches vs. Cancer" event hosted by the boys varsity basketball team.

Cudahy students made Dooley a sign. There were "Dooley Strong" bracelets, T-shirts and care packages.

It was their way of paying it forward.

"I think kids just gravitated toward him, and I think other people saw how much of an influence he was in the school and the community," Wasikowski said.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

"When he went through the battle, it gave kids the realization that 'I get it. I'm 17 years old, 18 years old, but this kid's living a lot more than anybody's gone through right now,'" Conrad said.

"It's crazy how much a community can rally around one kid," Dooley said.

So was having Dooley's family by his side every step of the way.

"God's grace got us through that, and his attitude," Chris Dooley, Dylan's father said.

In September 2015, Dooley got wonderful news. He was cancer free.

"There's no greater feeling in the world than that. It's like a whole weight is lifted off your shoulders. You can finally breathe again. I mean, obviously the fight's not over. We still have a way to go, but at that time, it's like the most joyous feeling in the whole world," Dooley said.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

Dooley has reached out to other patients at Children's Hospital, and to his friends.

His message for everybody facing life's challenges:

"Take each day as a new day, a new life, basically -- and you just want to keep fighting. Just keep fighting. Don't ever give up," Dooley said.

That's what Dooley plans to do, and he'll always be Cudahy High School's biggest fan.

"I can't wait to see what the future holds for me, and everyone around me. Sports is my life and I don't ever want to give that up," Dooley said.

Dooley wants to parlay his passion into a career in sportscasting.

Dylan Dooley

Dylan Dooley

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