Team makes house call to celebrate historic win with No. 1 fan

Menendez players share victory with assistant principal battling cancer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The Menendez High School football team made history Friday when the Falcons defeated rival St. Augustine High for the first time in 18 years.

And it was a rout, 62-28.

But the team's biggest fan, Assistant Principal David Simpkins, couldn't be there to see it.

He's been going through radiation treatments, after being diagnosed with throat cancer in June.

The team couldn't fully enjoy the big win without him, so the Falcons took the celebration right to Simpkins' front door.

A Facebook video posted by his wife, Melanie Simpkins, has been shared hundreds of times, showing Simpkins surprised to see dozens of players, coaches and staff outside his home.

So we had to miss the rivalry game tonight against the jackets. It’s been 18 years but this was Pedro’s year. Coach...

Posted by Melanie Simpkins on Friday, August 31, 2018

“Knowing how much David wanted to be there the team came to our house on the way back to the school after the victory. Emotional to say the least,” she wrote.

Cancer treatments are an all-too-familiar situation for the Simpkinses. Melanie battled breast cancer in 2009, but she remains in remission.

David Simpkins has been working at Menendez High School, even during the radiation treatments.

"It's been hard to eat, hard to swallow, hard to sleep. It's been the most draining thing,” said Simpkins, who has three more weeks of radiation treatment.

Yanetta Arnold, dean of students at Menendez High School, said that since she heard about Simpkins' diagnosis, she can’t think of a day that he has not come to work. 

“His drive and passion are unbelievable,” Arnold said.

Simpkins, a former basketball coach who spends time mentoring the Menendez athletes, had not missed a game until Friday. Simpkins said missing the big rivalry matchup against St. Augustine has been the worst part of his treatment. 

“You don't realize it until you can't do it,” he said. “You miss it so much."

Melanie Simpkins made a Facebook post to share her regrets about missing the rivalry game. 

“I talked to Melanie and she said she would try to bring him at some point during the game," Arnold said. "They never showed, so we supposed that Mr. Simpkins wasn't feeling well."

But the team traveled straight from the game to Simpkins' home to celebrate with the Falcons' No. 1 fan.

"It was awesome, just the outpouring of love,” Simpkins said. “(They said,) 'You got this; we love you; we're behind you.' It was very overwhelming."

Each player returning the support Simpkins has given them every day with hugs and encouragement.

Arnold shared how much she admired Principal Clay Carmichael, athletic director Patrick Turner and football coach Kyle Skipper for coordinating the surprise visit under short notice. She said that their entire school faculty has been positively impacted by Simpkins, whom she calls a servant-leader among them.

The coaching staff at Menendez has also pitched in for Simpkins, visiting regularly to help with household chores and gardening. He said the support of the community continues to keep his family in good spirits. 

Every week Simpkins posts a health update on Facebook to let people know how he is doing. His wife says that he ends every post with “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”

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