The start of Evan Regas' college career was anything but ideal.
The Temple offensive lineman began his first fall camp just two months removed from news that his mother, Susan Untoria, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The ordeal spanned the length of his first four years with the Owls, tragically culminating in Susan's death two weeks into the semester last fall.
Regas, a redshirt senior, has chosen to honor her this Sunday, his first Mother's Day without her, by participating with 14 of his teammates in the 1-mile fun walk as part of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Philadelphia.
"It's a very humbling experience from my point of view, because I've been in charge of putting the player aspect of this together," Regas said. "It's very humbling to me to see how the team has come to support this cause and myself and the other players on the team who have gone through something similar. It's just a very awesome feeling."
Regas spent nearly every morning these past four years on the phone with his mother, and they would communicate throughout the afternoon and evening to see how each other's day was going, with Susan peppering him with reminders to not lose his focus in class or on the field because he was worrying about her.
Susan loved Temple when the Toms River, N.J., natives visited back when Evan was in high school. She even made it to Lincoln Financial Field for his first college game, against Villanova on Sept. 3, 2009, just two weeks removed from a double mastectomy.
Radiation treatment and chemotherapy followed for roughly a year afterward. Susan went into remission before the cancer reappeared in the form of stage 4, triple-negative breast cancer that spread to her liver. Early detection led to more chemotherapy, but by last August it had made its third appearance, spreading to her chest and into her femur and her neck.
"The coaching staff actually sent me home for a weekend to go see her after practice. They actually told me, 'You're going home. There's no arguing with us,' " Regas said. "That just shows how much they care about the players and the families, and how that came first before football."
Susan lost her battle on Sept. 15, 2012.
"When she passed it felt like a sucker-punch to the gut," Regas said. "Losing your mother is never easy, and especially just watching her go through everything she went through, it made it harder just to experience it. But her passing was in some ways a blessing, because doctors said she wasn't going to get better. So she was no longer in pain, she was peaceful now."
An only child, Regas is close with his father George and his stepfather, Arnie, who married Susan in 2009 before her diagnosis.
With the support of his teammates by his side, Regas and a large Temple contingent will take part this weekend in an event geared at raising funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer, and he is hoping to encourage others to be proactive about the disease.
"Just the players, everybody here, all my teammates, all my brothers — they've helped me through every little bit of this," Regas said. "From when I was a freshman when she first got diagnosed, to her passing, they've been here every step of the way. They showed up at the wake, phone calls, text messages and even some of their families sent me 'Thinking of You' cards and flowers to the wake and everything. So without them I don't know how much of this I would've been able to do as well as I have."