Teen's cancer battle an inspiration for Tigers, Swinney

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) - Sitting at his Summerville kitchen table, it looks like Christmas morning for Erik Simao.{}More meaningful than the pile of orange and white jerseys, shirts, hats and golf balls are the memories that go with them.{}

"My love for Clemson started when I was probably eight years old," said Simao.{}

Eleven whole years ago, ironically, that was the same year he was diagnosed with brain cancer for the first time.{}He's now 19 years old, he's dealt with four different bouts of cancer.{}His recent diagnosis is grim, but his spirit was anything but.{}

"It's been pretty tough, but friends and family help me through it," said Simao.{}

Included in that unit is his Clemson Tiger family.{}You know you've made it when, before a prime time match-up with Georgia Tech, Dabo Swinney's first stop as he steps on the field is Simao's wheelchair.{}

"I knew we'd see the game," said Simao. "I did not know we'd meet most of the coaches and Dabo.{}It was very cool, they all had something for me and said hello."{}

{}The local organization Courageous Kids first heard about Simao's battle and set up a trip for him to go to Clemson.{}The Tigers athletics department has taken care of the rest.

Three trips later to see his favorite team play and Simao has struck up friendships that will last him forever.{}

"It's a privilege any time I get a chance to help someone smile; it's a blessing for me more than him," said Swinney.{} "I've met him a few times, it's great to see him enjoy the game, the environment, meet a lot of people."

One of those people is head basketball coach Brad Brownell and head baseball coach Jack Leggett.{}

"It was unbelievable for us to watch" said Simao's father, Ed.{}"Every coach came down and gave him a shirt, hat, golf balls.{}Each team, each sport - it was fantastic."{}

Through treatment and fatigue, through diagnosis and mental strain, more than a game, it's an escape for Simao.{}

"Having Clemson as an aside is awesome.{}It gives you something to look forward to.{}When you get a break from treatments and doctors, it's a nice thing to look forward to," said Simao.{}{}{}

The Tigers are providing motivation and inspiration. Swinney's motto is "all in" and he's certainly bought in to Simao's motto, "believe."{}

"He's having a tough battle; my prayers are with him and his family. To see a young man continue to fight, live and have a great spirit about him is a great example to all of us," said Swinney.{}

The Tigers have surprised Simao, too; they haven't lost a game that he's attended.