PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The grind of a football season is a lot for any high school student, let alone for Comstock Park senior Preston Gates.

“My body doesn’t really recover like other kids, so it’s kind of tough to get that recovery time in and get ready for the next week,” Gates said.

This is Gates’ first year playing varsity football. He was always good enough to make the team, but for the last few years, while his teammates were battling their opponents, he was on the sidelines battling something much worse.

“I had a feeling that it wasn’t good news if they’re saying, ‘Get your son to the hospital right now,'” said Cherie and Alex Gates, Preston Gates’ parents. “I didn’t know exactly, there’s a few things that go through your mind, but you’re definitely thinking cancer or something along those lines.”

In 2018, just after Preston Gates’ 13th birthday, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

“In that meeting, they gave us a three-ring binder, and said, ‘This is your son’s treatment,'” Alex Gates said.

“And that’s when we really understood that this was not a year, two years,” Cherie Gates said. “This was going to be three years and three months of pretty intense chemo.”

His chances of survival were high, but the road ahead was long.

For three years, Preston Gates would sit through eight hours of chemo, multiple times a week.

“I would just think about what’s coming next, what’s after that,” Preston Gates said. “I thought about just being on the sports field and proving to my community and my family that I’m going to beat this.”

And he did. In 2021, Preston Gates rang the bell and celebrated being cancer-free.

“The date probably meant more, because I didn’t really want all that attention and stuff ringing the bell, but beating the cancer meant everything,” Preston Gates said.

But his body was nowhere near strong enough to play in a football game yet.

As a lifetime competitor, Preston Gates scratched that itch by playing his favorite video games and taking stats on the Panthers’ sideline.

“I had more fun doing that than being in the student section,” Preston Gates said.

His brother Jackson Gates was the starting quarterback at the time, leading the Panthers to a 9-0 regular season.

But all the while, Preston Gates yearned to be back on the field.

“My brother’s team, that 9-0 team really pushed me to get back on the football field,” Preston Gates said.

Not only did he beat cancer, but five years after his diagnosis, Preston Gates got back on the field, too.

It left his teammates inspired.

“Something I live by every day is that someone always has it harder than you,” Donovan Cummings, Comstock Park’s quarterback, said. “And that’s another story that you can just look at, and just be like … he’s overcame his.”

But Preston Gates had bigger goals than just strapping on a helmet.

Prior to the Panthers’ week three game against Kelloggsville, they drew up a trick play that would give Preston Gates — or, as his team calls him, “Pooh” — the ball.

“This is going to be our moment. We were up 13-nothing, 19-nothing at the time,” said Doug Samuels, head coach for Comstock Park. “And we knew that this was our moment to get Pooh a touchdown.”

But on the next play, Comstock Park quarterback Cummings had a chance to score.

Instead, he took a knee.

“He’s been wanting to come on the field for so long,” Cummings explained. “But like, I was just so excited for the moment that he was going to cherish for the rest of his life.”

That moment was Preston Gates’ first touchdown catch.

“I don’t really get much chances because my body … and it’s hard to get out there,” Preston Gates said. “But I had to get out there and score that touchdown.”

With cancer in the rearview mirror, the physical effects of chemo still impact Preston on the daily.

But he knows there isn’t a single opponent on the field who will be tougher to beat than cancer.