Small kid has a big impact with Kentucky football

Ryan Cremeens poses for a photo with Stanley Boom Williams, right. Williams is a former UK football player now with the Cincinnati Bengals.

By Jake Maynard

In June 2016, Ryan Cremeens walked into the UK Markey Cancer Center for his first round of chemotherapy treatment. In the fog of waiting rooms and check-in clipboards, Cremeens was blessed with a lighthouse of hope in the form of Kentucky football players.

Looking back at what could have been one of the worst days of his life, Cremeens said he was more surprised to see his heroes visit him instead of scared of what was to come. More than that, Cremeens described it as one of the most special moments of his life.

Talking about that day, there was one memory that stuck out.

“They asked who my favorite football player was, and I said Boom Williams… I didn’t know he was in the room at that time. They were like, he’s right there and I was like: what? Oh my God!” he said.

C.J. Conrad, UK’s current tight end, was also one of the players who visited Cremeens that day. For nearly two and a half years, Conrad has been in close contact with Cremeens and his family.

During Cremeens’ fight with cancer, Conrad was there for much more than just Creemens’ first round of chemo.

“I saw him from his first day to his last day of chemo and just to see what he was going through… and he wasn’t scared that really inspired me, like wow the kid’s about to go through I think it was like 42 rounds of chemotherapy for at least a year,” Conrad said. “That just like wowed me and you know it drew me closer to him and that’s how we built that connection.”

The connection between Conrad and Creemens is a special one for sure. When either of them hears the others’ name, you can see the mutual love and respect in their faces. Since Creemen’s first appointment in 2016, Conrad has seen Ryan out of the hospital numerous times.

One of the influential moments with Conrad occurred when he went to Creemens’ football practice. Creemens was having difficulties catching the ball and Conrad didn’t hesitate to step in and help.

He gave Creemens a few pointers, and he started catching the passes.

Football means the world to Creemens. One of Creemens’ other friends on the team, Yusuf Corker, said he can clearly see Creemens’ love for the game.

“He loves football and I remember when he had cancer it hurt his heart that he couldn’t play while he was sick,” Corker said. “But now, now he’s playing, and he can play really any position.”

The way Creemens and Corker met is a testament to Corker’s character. No one asked Corker to reach out to a sick boy; he took it upon himself to put a smile on Creemens’ face.

Corker remembers that day well.

“It was my senior year in high school and I’d already committed here, and they brought him out for a spring game. At the end of the spring game I saw him, and I just went over and shook his hand and talked to him,” Corker said. “After that we just became friends… I met his dad and he met my stepdad and we just started talking. We exchanged numbers.”

Corker and the Cremeens family have been close ever since. Whenever the family can make it to a game, Creemens’ father, Eric, texts Corker before each Catwalk to let him know where the family is. No matter how crowded it gets, Corker always makes sure he sees his buddy.

Creemens dreams of one day being on the other side of fence for a Catwalk in full Kentucky gear. He wants to not only play for Kentucky, but also in the NFL.

Corker said he believes Creemens has the potential to achieve these dreams.

“I feel like he could do it, he’s a very talented young kid. I’m not just saying it cause I’m his friend. I’ve played football with him, like he was in the backyard tackling,” Corker said. “He was trying to tackle me, he actually brought me down one time.”

Right now, Creemens plays just about every position for his team, but he wants to play either defensive end or linebacker for Kentucky. Josh Allen, UK’s current star linebacker and another one of Creemens’ talented friends, is more than happy that Creemens may one day play his position.

Like everyone else on the football team, Allen wants Creemens to succeed and is more than willing to help him along.

“I’m going to teach him everything I can. If he needs me, I’ve got him,” Allen said.

Denzil Ware was there for Creemens’ first chemo treatment and became very close with the Cremeens family. In fact, Ware spent Thanksgiving with them one year.

Ware decided to use the graduate-transfer rule to play at Jackson State this year. Before leaving UK, Ware introduced Creemens’ to a phenomenal player and even better person: Allen.

“I felt obligated just to be with him, you know, through his process,” Allen said of his first introduction to Creemens. “I just wanted to be out there to support. Show him that, you know, that we all love him and we’re here to support him.”

During their first meeting, Creemens and Allen connected immediately. The two joked around and decided to race each other. Allen and Creemens have a great relationship, but when it comes to competition, it’s go big or go home.

“Oh yeah, I had to win. Losing’s not an option in my mind,” Allen said jokingly. “I’d even beat my momma if I had to race her. It’s all fun and games. You know if we race again, I’ll beat him again.”

Allen has worked hard to get to a place where he is respected as a player, but his dedication to football isn’t just so he can play the game at the highest level.

“We’re not just out here to play football, we’re out here to affect lives,” he said.

Allen understands the position he has as a star player and is more than willing to use it to make the world a better place. He sees Creemens similarly to how Creemens sees him.

“People like Ryan respect us and we respect guys like that,” Allen said. “We play a tough sport, but we all have soft hearts.”

When he was introduced to Cremeens, he immediately felt that he needed to act.

“When you see a guy, when you see a kid going through that situation right there, it’s just I gotta give back somehow,” Allen said. “Just playing with him for like 15 minutes, if that’s enough then I’m going to do it every day if I can.”

Cremeens and the Panthers just won the super bowl of the tackle football league he plays in. Cremeens was one of the best players in his league and was named an all-star. With friends like Conrad, Corker and Allen, the sky is the limit for the young man.