While the Dallas Cowboys are known for giving and taking hits on the football field, today the team took a gut-wrenching blow — the death of 21-year-old Luke Laufenberg, son of Joan and Babe Laufenberg.
It was the day after Christmas in 2017 that Texas A&M freshman football walk-on Luke was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia known as Burkitt Leukemia. School was put on a backburner, while Luke went through five months of treatments at Children’s Medical Center.
Babe admitted that there were way too many times when he would break down in tears after leaving his son.
Despite losing 80 pounds and his hair, 6’4″ Luke became something of a celebrity with Dallas Cowboys like Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach and Jason Garrett visiting him and being amazed at his courage and strength.
In May 2018 the Laufenbergs got the good news that all the pain and suffering had worked and Luke was in remission.
In recognition of his example, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas announced that Luke would receive the Tom Landry Character Award at the 2019 St. Valentine’s Day Fashion Show and Luncheon at NorthPark this past February. But Luke couldn’t make it because he was at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he had earned a scholarship. So, proud papa Babe stepped in to accept the award for his “hero” on Thursday, February 7.
Looking at a nearby table, Babe spied Brill Garrett, wife of Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. He told how when Luke was in the hospital, Jason and other Dallas Cowboys, past and present, would visit the teenager. Knowing how much weight Luke had lost, Jason hauled in burgers from Burger House — enough to feed the team. While the intention was excellent, the problem was that Luke was barely able to stomach a cup of liquid. After weeks of treatments, Babe told his son that he had to get well, because Babe was gaining so much weight from eating the burgers.
Then to the delight of the audience, a healthy and smiling Luke appeared on the two mega-screens on the stage. He had Skyped in for a chat with his dad and to thank the funding that had supported the research and developments made in leukemia and lymphoma.
But it would all change just two months later, when the Laufenbergs got the news that the cancer had returned with a vengeance.
Knowing that he had only weeks to live, his family reported that “he handled the news with a strength of character and sweet demeanor that will always inspire his family, friends, coaches, doctors and the treatment staff at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.”
A broken-hearted Babe tweeted this morning, “Today we lost a son, a brother, a friend, and a warrior. Have never seen a person battle like Luke Laufenberg, but he lost his fight with cancer. He was truly inspirational. The hole in our hearts will never be filled. You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”
* Photo provided by Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas