Bryan Babb and Ed Shultz look a lot like the other 178 cadets in Army's football program. For that matter, they look like most of the 4,400 other cadets at West Point. Of course, in many ways all cadets look alike. They march in formation, wear identical uniforms, return salutes and haze plebes. They are shiny-buttoned, buffed-shod, sir-saying students who are supposed to be the finest examples of American youth. They are smart and polite. Every American parent would like to raise one of them.
But besides West Point and Army football, what makes Babb and Shultz most alike is the cancer. Babb was told he had cancer last year when he was 21; Shultz was diagnosed in 1986 when he was 20. Both have made heroic recoveries and are playing football once again. There's a tendency to think that two young men with so much in common would have the same feelings about what has dominated their lives: West Point, football, cancer. But Babb and Shultz approach these things from opposite points of view.
Around West Point, Babb is the cocky quarterback, an independent, almost rebel cadet, uncomfortable with the constant regimentation on campus and on the football field. Shultz is the stoic lineman, a team player, a good soldier willing to give his all for the corps. With characteristic candor, Babb says, "On a daily basis they give you a hundred opportunities to screw up, a hundred ways to get in trouble." Says Shultz, "I don't look at it as opportunities to screw up. I haven't gotten in much trouble while I've been here, I just follow the rules."
The summer before the 1986 season, Shultz, then a junior, was suffering from what he thought was a simple allergy problem. "I felt a little tired," he says. "I was coughing a lot. I kept playing and I kept getting run-down. But I had no idea anything was the matter with me."
A few weeks later, at 11:30 p.m. on the night before the Wake Forest game, Shultz went to bed. When he got up three hours later, his neck had swollen from its normal circumference of 19� inches to 23 inches. Shultz remembers, "I woke up about 3:00 and my neck was just gigantic."
The doctors at Keller Army Hospital in West Point initially thought that he had swollen glands from an infection. "It took them five days before they finally said they didn't know what was the matter," says Shultz. "They never said anything about cancer."
The Army flew Shultz to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. After a biopsy and a week of tests, the doctors told him he had Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer that first attacks the lymph nodes. Says Shultz: "I was shocked. Who wouldn't be?"
Almost exactly one year later, again the week of the Wake Forest game, Babb, then a third-string quarterback, was throwing with another reserve during practice. "I was watching something else and let my hands down," says Babb. "The ball hit me right in the groin. After that, my testicle was a little swollen, but I really didn't notice it that much."
During the game, Tory Crawford, the No. 1 quarterback, and Mark Mooney, the backup, were hurt. That left Babb as the starter for the fifth game of the '87 season, against Boston College. "The pain really started bothering me before the BC game, but I didn't want to say anything," he says. "I was starting. I didn't want anything to blow my chance of playing.
"I thought, Well, I haven't got anything to lose," says Babb. "These people think I'm going to go out there and fall on my ass. So if I don't, they'll be surprised. The worst I can do is what they expect."