Andrew Rogers has been a diehard Louisiana State University fan ever since he started playing NCAA football games on his PlayStation 2. He follows the team religiously, knows all the players and watched them battle during the fall to a 10-2 record and a bid to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
"He's hooked for sure," said his mother, Linda Rogers.
Andrew's parents are glad their son has found a team that gives him so much pleasure. For most of the 9-year-old's life, he has had little to smile about.
Andrew, a third-grader at Greenbrier Elementary School, has endured more than 40 surgeries since doctors found a tumor on his liver when he was 3 years old. He has undergone two liver transplants, chemotherapy treatments and recently lost much of his hearing after having surgery on his head.
"Andrew is a special little boy and he deserves all the happiness he can get," said Traci Dudley, a fourth-grade teacher at Greenbrier Middle. "He has endured so much already."
It was that thought that prompted Dudley to make a phone call to her sister, Terre Smith, in Baton Rouge, La., during the Thanksgiving holiday. Smith, a graduate of LSU, knew a friend who knew one of the assistant coaches on the Tigers football team. The loosely linked chain led to a dream come true for Andrew Rogers.
"Because LSU was going to be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game, they worked it out that Andrew could meet and shake hands with the football team and have the head coach present him with an autographed football," Dudley said.
On Dec. 2, the day before LSU would battle with the Georgia Bulldogs for the SEC Championship, Andrew met the team at their hotel in Atlanta.
He stood in awe of the massive football players and gave his favorite athlete, senior wide receiver Skyler Green, a small cross for good luck. Green promised he'd wear it when he played while Andrew, elated, told many of the Tigers they would beat Georgia 100-0.
The dream wasn't over.
After the meeting, the LSU coaching staff - led by defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto - surprised Andrew and his parents with three tickets on the 50-yard line to the SEC Championship game.
"That just made his day," said Andrew's father, Rodney Rogers. "He was stunned when he first found out."
Andrew watched LSU lose to Georgia the next day, but the young Tiger fan hasn't lost any of his loyalty.
In fact, he'll be back in the stands Friday night at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl where 10th -ranked LSU will meet No. 9 Miami. Andrew found three tickets to the game in his stocking Christmas morning.
The good news keeps coming for the third-grader. His health is improving, too.
"There's nothing showing up on the scans right now," Linda Rogers said. "We've been real fortunate. Hopefully, no more will appear."
The news is a miracle considering doctors originally told Andrew's parents he had a 10 percent chance of survival.
While Andrew was living his dream, his parents said they've learned something as well.
"You find out how much you need other people," Rodney Rogers said. "It's nice to find people who will help."
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