TAMPA, Fla. -- When 19-year-old Kacey Reynolds learned he would get to stand onstage and announce the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' No. 5 overall draft selection in Nashville, it was a dream come true. It was also one that seemed impossible not long ago, as Kacey has spent nearly two years battling Hodgkin lymphoma.
What happened next was even more unfathomable.
Reynolds got a phone call Thursday night with a special invitation. Head coach Bruce Arians was on the other end of the phone, inviting Reynolds and his parents, Kenneth and Kelly Reynolds, to accompany first-round pick Devin White to Tampa on his first day as a Buccaneer.
We can't wait to see you this afternoon, Kacey! pic.twitter.com/uvP9A4YYEV— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) April 26, 2019
"It meant a lot to make the pick because I never thought I’d be healthy enough to do it," Reynolds said. "It meant a lot more that they invited me back because you think, ‘Oh, you’re just a Make-A-Wish [kid], you’re just gonna get your wish.' But they actually invited me back to their home. It made me part of their family.”
For Arians, it was personal.
"Having been a two-time cancer survivor -- luckily -- and to see him enjoy this, it’s special," Arians said. "Until you hear that word, that you have something [cancer], you find out a lot about yourself. He is obviously one tough SOB. And I would love to have him on our team.”
Reynolds and his family flew back with White on the team charter, before being greeted by a sea of supporters and chants of "Kacey!" in the lobby of the team facility. General manager Jason Licht even signed him to a contract.
"For us to experience this together -- kind of mad that he already has a Bucs jersey on and I don’t have one yet," White joked in his introductory news conference. "It’s going to be fun and I hope he can come back for some games and support me."
White then fixed his eyes on Reynolds, sitting just a few feet away.
"You have a forever friend in me, my guy. I mean that from the bottom of my heart," White said. “I know this isn’t the end of our relationship -- we’re going to stay in touch.
"It’s a blessing to be a blessing to another person, and Kacey, if you don’t know it, if I didn’t say it -- you were a blessing to me, which I think I told you a million times. I’m still thankful that you put that pick in for me.”
"He is obviously one tough S.O.B. And I would love to have him on our team." Bruce Arians on Kacey Reynolds
What's next for Reynolds is uncertain. He was originally told he'd have to wait six months for an experimental treatment, but his doctors are searching for something sooner.
“It helps because it gives me something to fill the void of time waiting. And it makes me more positive about the future," said Reynolds, who also got to play pool with Mike Evans and met Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy.
“I definitely got a few friends now. … I got Devin and Mike -- they’re both great. … [Evans] was really glad [to meet me]. He just said he was a little jealous that I didn’t get to call him out [when he was drafted in 2014]," Reynolds said.
“It’s ... kind of crazy to think about. Because I’m just a kid from a small town. Nobody knows who [I am] but there are so many that actually care. … They have no clue who I am, but they all cheered because of who I am (a survivor) and what I was doing.”