Oct. 3, 2014

By Jeff White (jwhite@virginia.edu)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The UVa football team will wear special helmets and, in a break from tradition, all-white uniforms Saturday night at Scott Stadium, and many players have taken to Twitter to say how excited they are about the new look.

For their ACC game against Pittsburgh, the Cavaliers also will wear pink wristbands, pink socks and pink gloves. To defensive tackle Andrew Brown, that’s a bigger deal than the new helmets.

The pink honors Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“I think it’s more important to me, because it represents something bigger than the game itself,” Brown, a true freshman from Chesapeake, said Friday afternoon.

“It kind of broadcasts the cause for breast cancer awareness. It’s a support thing, and of course it’s going to be a little more personal for me, because my mom had it.”

Brown, who turns 19 in December, was a toddler when his mother, Sonia Yvette Carter, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, her cancer went into remission, but it may have contributed, Brown said, to the heart problems that led to her death in December 2007.

At UVa, Brown wears jersey No. 9 in her honor, a nod to the day of the month on which his mom passed away.

“I wore No. 65 in high school,” he said. “I always wanted No. 9, but No. 9 was always taken by a skill player.”

Brown was still a young boy when his mother underwent chemotherapy.

“I remember when she lost her hair,” he said. “She was standing in front of the mirror like, `Wow,’ just looking at herself. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

After his mom’s death, Brown went on to become a celebrated athlete. As a senior at Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake last fall, he was named the Gatorade national player of the year.

His mother’s battle with cancer is not common knowledge among his UVa teammates, Brown said, but he’s received support from junior Eli Harold and classmates Chris Peace and Corwin Cutler, both of whom he knew well in high school. Brown and Cutler are cousins, and Harold understands the pain of losing a mother to cancer.

In January 2011, when Harold was a junior at Ocean Lakes High in Virginia Beach, Sheila Korvette Harold died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Brown, who graduated from Oscar Smith early, enrolled at UVa in January and went through spring practice with the football team. He’s appeared in two games for Virginia (3-2 overall, 1-0), which hosts Coastal Division rival Pitt (3-2, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

His mother’s memory fuels him, Brown said, on and off the field.

“It’s inspired me to do greater things,” he said. “It definitely drives me on those mornings when we have to wake up at 6 or 5:45, to get up and go to the weight room and practice and run. It’s definitely what I think about that gets me up.”

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