FOXBORO, Mass. — EJ Manuel was ecstatic when head coach Doug Marrone finally told him he would be the Bills’ starting quarterback in Sunday’s season opener, but he’s even more excited knowing that his mother, Jackie, will be there to see him play.
Jackie Manuel battled breast cancer for much of last year, forcing her to miss most of EJ’s senior season at Florida State. Earlier this year, she found out that she was in remission, which was a huge relief for the Bills’ rookie quarterback.
“She’s doing a lot better,” an elated Manuel said on a conference call Wednesday. “It’s really special. To have her there and times when, obviously anytime you have someone in your family deal with cancer, any type of cancer, it’s hard to deal with, especially when it’s your last year in college and you have a lot of pressure on you. The fact that she’s doing well now and she’ll be in the stands to watch me play against the New England Patriots, man nothing could be better than that.”
Jackie and EJ’s father Erik Sr. are the only people Manuel invited to his NFL debut on Sunday, and, the way EJ tells it, they’re the only ones who he really cares to have there anyway. The rookie says he just wants to make his parents proud, and he’s glad that he can share such a crowning achievement in his life with the two people who mean the most.
“Most definitely,” Manuel said. “Beyond football, my parents are my heroes in my life. I think a lot of the places I’ve gotten in my life is because of them and the sacrifices they made. I’m just really happy that I’m able to do things for them now.”
A win against the Patriots on Sunday would make Manuel’s NFL debut just that much sweeter.