After a Hall of Fame career on the gridiron, former cornerback Mike Haynes never expected cancer to be part of his story.
Haynes, the fifth overall draft pick in the 1976 NFL Draft, spent seven seasons with the Patriots before he was traded to the Raiders mid-season in 1983. He spent another seven seasons with the Silver and Black, and ended his career with 46 career interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries, a Super Bowl XVIII ring and a multitude of awards to his name, including nine Pro Bowl nods. The shutdown corner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.
Following his playing career, Haynes continued to work with the NFL, and as part of their new initiative at the time, he attended a cancer screening that resulted in unexpected news. At the age of 55, Haynes was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"The only reason I got screened was to encourage [others] to get screened," he said. "I was really scared because I didn't know a lot about prostate cancer."
The NFL and the American Cancer Society have been partnered since 2009 to draw awareness and fight cancer with early detection. Though there's no sure way to prevent cancer, regular screenings and lifestyle changes can help reduce risk. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for many cancers (breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate) is over 90 percent when detected early.
After Haynes received his diagnosis, he met with Dr. Chis Kane from the University of San Diego to discuss the options in which to go about tackling cancer.
"We all share humanity," Kane said. "Health is something that doesn't matter whether you're an NFL Hall of Famer or anybody in the community. We all are at risk of health difficulties."
Haynes underwent a radical prostatectomy, which was successful, and has been cancer free for 15 years. The journey, though, is one that will always stick with him.
Today, the Hall of Famer continues to educate others on the importance of early screenings, being the reason he is alive today.
"I decided when I was diagnosed with the prostate cancer to set a goal about living a long time. Before that, I was just living my life," he said. "I realized, 'Wait a minute, you mean there's something I can do?' You need to be intentional."
Visit NFL.com/CrucialCatch to find local cancer screening centers and to learn more about reducing cancer risks.