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Virginia Tech kicker keeping brother's memory alive

Hokies kicker Joey Slye is in the running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s "Man of the Year" award. Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- For Virginia Tech kicker Joey Slye, spring practice ends Saturday, and the real work begins Sunday.

Slye has the kicking duties wrapped up, but he’s now in the running for a bigger honor -- the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s "Man of the Year," and he’s hosting a fundraiser at Virginia Tech's indoor practice facility on Sunday that could push him over the top.

Of course, for Slye, the honor is nominal. It’s work he’s doing not for the recognition, but for his brother, A.J., who died as a result of leukemia in 2014.

"Having him pass away was hard for me, because I knew that, not just as my brother, as a person in society, we lost someone who would have made something happen," Slye said. "Instead of letting him die and his memory die and his ability to change people die, I want to continue his legacy."

After A.J.’s death, Slye’s family formed a charitable foundation in his honor, and Joey has been a driving force behind it ever since. Sunday’s event is a culmination of years of work, he said.

Slye said there will be corn hole tournaments, food trucks, a silent auction and photo booths for pictures with famous Virginia Tech alumni, and he’ll be partnering with "Be the Match," a foundation aimed at finding bone marrow donors -- a critical alternative for leukemia and lymphoma patients after chemotherapy fails.

Slye said the plan is to top the current record for donor swabs -- the test to see if a donor is a potential fit for a bone marrow transplant -- which stands at 1,100. Slye said he hopes to double that.

"We want to smash the record," he said.

More than anything, however, it’s another chance for Slye to honor his brother.

"He might not physically be here," Slye said, "but emotionally and spiritually, he’s still with me."