With shoulder-length, stallion-like blonde hair and a robust build, it is unimaginable to believe PCC offensive lineman Ben Kaiser was once battling cancer while still clinging onto his dream of playing football.
Kaiser, who was born in Boston but raised in Switzerland until the age of seven, knew right away that he wanted to play football for a living. He then moved to South Pasadena and attended PCC because he felt that the two years would help him pave the path he needed to achieve his objective.
“When I came here, I was a kinesiology major,” Kaiser said. “Everything was for the main goal of playing football. That’s what I wanted to do — play football for a decent school.”
But despite having very healthy physique, Kaiser was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 19 years old in the summer of 2013.
There was a pain in Kaiser’s testicle and he noticed something growing in it, which was then to be confirmed by a doctor as a tumor. Lucky for him, it was caught early on but it didn’t take away from the fact the risk still lived inside him.
“Before then, I didn’t really have a path,” Kaiser said. “I thought I had time to achieve my goal, like there’s no rush to do anything, but then I got testicular cancer. It really changed my work ethic.”
Kaiser explained that his perspective on things flipped entirely. More than ever, he was driven to work harder to get back on the football field.
“Every time something happened that pushed me away from my goal, yeah it was frustrating, but I had that motivation to keep going, and push through that,” he said.
Kaiser strived to maintain his positivity in the situation. He explained that after hearing the confirmation from the doctor that he had cancer, he immediately began to plan for the future, asking the doctor questions like how long until he can go out and play football.
He admits that it was really easy to get stuck in self-pity, but he was grateful for his family, girlfriend, teammates, and coaches who kept him busy and away from that thought process.
“They were really supportive to get me back on the field. My teammates and my coaches really got my mind off the cancer,” he said.
Marc Peart, one of Kaiser’s teammates could not believe that Kaiser was battling cancer.
“I found out through Facebook when he announced he was cancer free,” Peart said. “I was shocked. I mean I just saw him yesterday and he was repping 405 lbs. squatting. I’m glad he was able to get back on the team. He’s a very good contribution.”
Peart remembers even when he would skip practices for check-ups, he would still let the coach know he would be going to the gym and try to work on his exercises as much as he could.
Former head coach Thom Kaumeyer, one of the coaches who Kaiser relied on for advice as to how to stay in shape for football, thinks Kaiser’s persistence will bring him much fortune when getting recruited.
“I think with him, he’s looking at it like a second chance to really play a sport that he loves,” Kaumeyer said. “I think that gives him a little more incentive to work harder in the weight room, conditioning, and be set to go so that he can learn his techniques and take off. I think he’s going to be rewarded for his efforts.”
Though Kaiser was relieved to find out his tumor markers returned to their normal levels, his rigorous work ethic remained.
“I see a lot of students in classes not doing things with a sense of urgency, and I don’t think that necessarily is the good way of doing things … people see the 10 games in the fall, but there’s more than that,” Kaiser said. “In those times when you’re not getting recognition for the things you do, it’s a lot easier to work hard knowing that any second, that opportunity could be taken away from you.”
Kaiser has been accepted to the University of Tulsa and invited to play for their football team.
“This is definitely a great opportunity,” Kaiser said. “An offer I will certainly strongly consider.”