By Ada Zhang
He is a talented athlete, a Cartoon Network fanatic, and now, Temple junior Lache Seastrunk shows the public yet another facet of his personality — his heart.
Seastrunk can be seen wearing his wristband that says “Molly” both on and off the field.
He said he never takes it off.
Molly Martinsen, daughter of part-time lecturer Jen Martinsen, was diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2011. She was 10 at the time.
After a long and hard battle, one that she refused to back down from, Molly died at age 11 in May 2012.
Martinsen said Molly was passionate about volleyball. Her natural talent paired with her love of the game made Molly an exceptional athlete, Martinsen said.
After going through brain surgery, Molly’s physical capabilities were limited.
“She couldn’t swallow, her vision was blurred, she lost hearing in the right ear, the right side of her body was paralyzed,” Martinsen said. “I had to feed her through her stomach.”
Molly could not walk and was supposed to stay in a wheelchair, Martinsen said.
Molly never cried about her deteriorated physical condition, Martinsen said. The only reason Molly cried was because she didn’t want to give up playing volleyball.
“She asked, ‘Momma, when will I ever get back on the court?” Martinsen said.
Determined to play volleyball again, Molly worked hard in physical therapy to get her body back.
She worked hard for months, Martinsen said, and eventually regained her ability to eat, talk and walk.
“She stayed in a wheelchair for only one day,” Martinsen said. Brain surgery left the right side of Molly’s face permanently paralyzed, and hearing in her right ear was also permanently lost.
Despite Molly’s progress, her brain tumor returned. On the third MRI checkup, Molly’s tumor was back and bigger than before, Martinsen said. Molly died two weeks later.
“She fought through anything,” Martinsen said. “The only thing she couldn’t do is live. Her fight was to never give up.”
Seastrunk heard Molly’s story in a class called “On Death and Dying,” for which Martinsen was a guest speaker. The story, he said, motivates him to keep trying the way Molly did.
“When she told me the story, I said, ‘I’m going to win it now,’” Seastrunk said.
Seastrunk is confident when it comes to winning the 2013 Heisman Trophy. He made his controversial statement regarding the Heisman in December 2012.
To Sporting News, he said, “I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013. If I don’t, I’m going to get very close. I’m shooting for that goal.”
Seastrunk has made it clear since then that he won’t back down from his claim. Now that he has “the power of Molly,” he said he is more dedicated than ever to achieve his goal.
“My conviction is stronger than anyone else’s to win,” Seastrunk said. “I know in my heart that nobody can stop me from what I want to do and what God has in store for me.”
Seastrunk said Molly’s spirit encourages him whenever he has self-doubt.
“I think of her in everything I do,” Seastrunk said. “If I tell myself ‘no,’ what would Molly think? What would Molly think if I said I couldn’t do it? I know she’ll lift me up because she is my angel, because I feel her all the time. She’s always with me.”
Martinsen said she thinks Seastrunk identifies strongly with Molly because, like her, he is a gifted athlete with the will to persist in the face of adversity.
“Last year, when he pulled his hamstring in that game and kept running, I sat in my living room and said, ‘That’s a Molly move,” Martinsen said. “She would’ve done that. She would’ve kept running.”
Molly has become an important part of Seastrunk’s life, he said, and he would like to build a philanthropic foundation in Molly’s name in the future.
Martinsen said she is touched and amazed that Seastrunk can connect with Molly on such a deep level without ever meeting her. Seastrunk has accompanied Martinsen to the cemetery to visit Molly’s grave, she said.
“He takes her strength with him,” Martinsen said.
When Seastrunk steps out onto the field, he said he is playing for something greater than himself.
“Coach Kaz always tells us to play for a higher cause,” Seastrunk said. “I found my cause.”