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For the next hour Hamm sits on his bed, doing homework on his laptop and texting back and forth with Camarillo. The opportunity to keep up a dialogue with an NFL player who excelled scholastically helps makes it easy for Hamm to stay in at night.
"U think ur better at O or D?" Camarillo texts.
"I'm good on both. If I had to pick, probably defense."
"I sent u a package today. U should get it in about 3 days."
When Hamm signs off, he's inspired to write his college admission essay. First he puts in his earbuds and scrolls through his iTunes to his favorite song, Bless the Broken Road, by Rascal Flatts. He cranks up the volume and starts mouthing the words: I set out on a narrow way many years ago, hoping I would find true love along the broken road... . This much I know is true, that God blessed the broken road.
With his parents in the next room, Hamm begins writing on a notepad. He opens with what it felt like when he first discovered a decade ago that his mother had Hodgkin's lymphoma. The words come easily.
When I was 7 years old I found out what cancer was. Being so young I really didn't know how to handle the situation. Only thing I can remember is every time the subject came up people got quiet and tears started to fall.
He's interrupted when his bedroom door opens and Donyetta pokes her head in. "Can I see your personal statement?" she says.
Hesitant, he hands her his pad, afraid she might not like it. Donyetta has always kept quiet about her cancer, not wanting others to view her as weak. (The disease was in remission but came back 10 months ago. Donyetta is undergoing chemotherapy.)
"O.K.," she says after reading the essay. Then the two say good night.