Blumberg off the Bench

9 years 8 months 3 weeks ago September 30, 2007 Sep 30, 2007 Sunday, September 30 2007 Sunday, September 30, 2007 10:47:22 PM CDT in Tiger Talk

He is a Missouri receiver who plays for Papa. It seems whatever Missouri receiver Tommy Saunders sets his mind to, he accomplishes. Last year he did more than 100-thousand push ups.

"He's going to do whatever it takes to get what he wants," said Brock Christopher.

"Everything he does he takes pride in and does it the best he can," said Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin.

"Probably the hardest working guy that I've ever been around. And even after he got his scholarship it isn't like he stopped," said senior tight end Martin Rucker.

Saunders isn't afraid to let you know his drive comes from family. Specifically his grandfather Rich Weber, a man he calls Papa.

"Everything I do is because of him. Walking on here, he's the biggest influence in my life," said Junior receiver Tommy Saunders.

When Papa talks, Tommy listens.

"It started when I was eight or so. He would give me 20 dollars a week if I called everybody sir. So I just always called him sir since then," said Saunders.

"He's the perfect kid, I can't explain it. Everything I've wanted him to do, he's done," said Saunders' grandfather Rich Weber.

Including accepting the challenge to walk on at Missouri, turning down scholarship offers elsewhere.

"Everybody in Kearney, the expert football people, said he's too slow. He'll never make a division one player. Well, he made a division one player and he made a good one," said Weber.

But now Saunders and his Papa are facing another challenge.

"My mom called me and told me he had cancer and it was in his lung and spread into his back and in his spine. You're sad at first, but you have to be positive," said Saunders.

"Congestive heart failure, Anemic, Cancer. What else? All of those good things, but I'm getting along fine," said Weber.

Well enough to leave the hospital for game day. Papa watched from the stands when Tommy caught a touchdown against Western Michigan.

"I get the touchdown and I pointed up to him. I know he was looking at me and I was looking at him," said Saunders.

"Heart skipped, jumped, beat, went crazy. You saw that didn't ya? You know that's for Papa," said Weber.

Papa even got an invite from coach Pinkel to a post game celebration

"He's like Tommy Saunders' grandpa is here, and it was amazing," said Saunders.

"When Pinkel says he's the most unselfish player he's ever had for him. That means more to me than him catching 25 touchdowns," said Weber.

On game days they both wear 84, but they share more. In his fourth quarter of life, Papa is cherishing every moment with his grandson.

"We've had 21 good years together and he realizes that, but he's just like me. He doesn't want to see it end, but if it has to, it has to," said Weber.

Saunders has a new goal this season. He's doing 1,000 sit-ups and push ups alternating days for the next 100 days.

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