It would be safe to assume that several thousand miles and an age difference of nearly 20 years would prevent two people from becoming good friends, let alone making regular trips across the distance to visit one another. Those factors, not to mention a professional athletic career and a battle with a complicated disease, have not stopped Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Charlotte native, Cooper Rush and Gavin Miller from developing a supportive and inspiring friendship.
For three years, Cooper has been in Dallas, Texas as an up-and-coming quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys. But back in Charlotte, across the street from his childhood home, Gavin started fighting Perthes disease. Perthes is a childhood condition in which flow of blood to the thighbone is impeded, causing cells to die. While Cooper was beginning the next stage of his athletic career, Gavin had to take a break from playing the games and sports he loves.
Gavin has undergone three surgeries in three years and has, as it turns out, had to travel to Dallas for treatment at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.
“It’s a cool opportunity and it’s a small world,” Cooper said. “We live across from each other back home, but he comes all the way [to Dallas] for surgery.”
Through Miracle Flights — an organization that provides free commercial flights to children and legal guardians seeking the child’s medical treatment in distant places — Gavin and his parents, Karen and Edwin, have been able to travel to Dallas at no cost.
The coincidental logistics of Gavin’s situation worked in favor of a developing bond and friendship. Cooper’s mother, Fran Rush, informed him of Gavin’s situation. From there, coordination between the two families made it possible for not only for Cooper to spend time tossing a ball around with Gavin when he came home from Texas for a visit, but for Gavin to visit Cooper in Dallas, to watch games, and even get a tour of AT&T Stadium from Cooper himself.
“I’ve met up with him three times,” Cooper said. “Last year he came to a game, I saw him in the spring, then last week I saw him.”
When they are together, Cooper and Gavin talk about football and other sports, as well as Gavin’s condition. During their last visit, Gavin shared good news about his condition, and it’s those moments that stand out to Cooper.
“When I first met him down here, he was in a wheelchair,” Cooper said. “It’s good to see him walking around and playing and being a kid again. It was awesome.”
When it comes to who inspires who, or who is the other’s hero, Cooper says it’s a two-way street.
“He inspires me and I’m glad I can help him through his stuff too,” Cooper said. “To go through what he goes through is just brutal. But to see his toughness and grinding through it —nothing really phases the guy. It’s an inspiration to me.”