A shout-out to his hometown Browns and St. Jude at the NFL Draft

St. Jude patient Fletcher appears in recorded announcement to air during the NFL Draft broadcast.

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  •  4 min


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Sure, it required a few takes, but he stood tall against his basement wall, stared straight into the camera and delivered his lines with poise and maturity.

“Hello, NFL fans, and a special shout-out to Browns Nation. I am so excited to help introduce the first-round draft pick for my hometown Cleveland Browns. The wait is finally over!”

So begins a taped announcement from Fletcher, a 12-year-old St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, that aired during the NFL draft broadcast on April 23 to a record audience of nearly 16 million people.

This year was different, of course. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the NFL to conduct the draft via videoconferencing rather than in the kind of festive, jam-packed venue typical of recent years.

Still, it’s heady stuff for a suburban Cleveland youngster who loves football and especially the local franchise. For the event, Fletcher wore attire representing two of his primary allegiances: a Browns jersey and a St. Jude baseball cap.

“While my journey with cancer has been hard, I cannot say enough about St. Jude. The doctors and staff are amazing, and they took such good care of me,” he said later in the 30-second message.

The appearance for the draft broadcast capped a difficult and unpredictable nine-month episode that began with Fletcher’s diagnosis with a cancerous brain tumor so rare that doctors had no fully defined protocol on how to treat it.

But you’d hardly know all that from watching the enthusiastic kid conclude his draft message with a segue back to live coverage: “And now back to you for the Browns’ pick. Go Browns!”

A mysterious illness

When describing their son, Fletcher’s parents tend to talk about his easy-going nature and love of sports. He’s played soccer, lacrosse and basketball. He competes on a swim team. He, mom, dad and older sister, Isla, ski together every winter.

His parents also talk about that hair.

“A big mop of hair,” as dad Jamie described it.


“With Shirley Temple curls,” mom Megan added.

Last July, however, their happy, active boy began experiencing bouts of headaches and vomiting. Because Fletcher’s dad had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor just a few months earlier – although Jamie’s symptoms had been different – his pediatrician was quick to recommend an MRI.

The scan showed the clear presence of a brain tumor, but it didn’t fully solve the mystery. Follow-up scans and a spinal tap didn’t either.

“They were looking for any type of marker to identify what kind of tumor it was, but there were no markers,” Megan said.

As they sought out more expertise on tumors, Megan and Jamie heard about specialists at St. Jude, where Fletcher was accepted for treatment. A biopsy at St. Jude later showed the mass was a PPTID – a pineal parenchymal tumor of intermediate differentiation. It’s so rare that the World Health Organization didn’t identify it “as a thing,” as Megan put it, until 2007, the year Fletcher was born.

Fletcher underwent a surgery in which the tumor was fully resected. But afterward, the family faced a dilemma. Because the tumor was so rare, there were no well-established post-surgical protocols for treating it. Jamie and Megan sought advice not only from experts at St. Jude, but more than a dozen other institutions.

“We really had to make decisions all along the way about how to treat this because no one was ever in absolute agreement,” Megan said.

With the concurrence of St. Jude doctors, the couple settled on a plan to have Fletcher undergo six weeks of proton radiation at the St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center, which is more targeted and safe than conventional photon radiation.

In addition to the radiation, Fletcher completed four rounds of chemotherapy.

And this is where the story circles back to football. Because in the process of his treatment, Fletcher lost (at least temporarily) those curly locks of hair, but he gained the support of a special player.

Bonding with a team and player

Fletcher has a favorite memory of watching Browns All-Pro wide-receiver Jarvis Landry make a play. He even remembers the date and opponent: Nov. 24, 2019, against the Miami Dolphins. During a break between radiation and the start of chemotherapy, Fletcher had gone to FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland to watch the game.

“The quarterback threw the ball… He (Landry) jumped over a guy, and you didn’t even see him catch the ball, but he somehow came down with it. It was awesome.”

By then, Landry had struck up a special relationship with Fletcher. Just before going to St. Jude for radiation treatment, the boy had toured the Browns’ training facility and met some players, including Landry.

Fletcher with Jarvis Landry

“That’s what really cemented his love of the Browns,” Jamie said.

From then on, the bonds only grew – between a young fan and a team, and a boy and star player.

During games, Landry wore a bracelet of support that Fletcher’s family distributed. And while the youngster was undergoing chemo, Landry sent him videos with messages of encouragement and prayer. Before that Dolphins game, Landry invited Fletcher and Isla out onto the field.

“He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Caring, kind, generous,” Fletcher said of his famous friend.

His treatment over, Fletcher is doing well with no evidence of disease, his parents said. He returns to St. Jude every three months for checkups.


Fletcher’s signature mop of hair hasn’t grown back yet, but he’s hardly concerned. As he prepared for the draft video shoot, he was a little nervous, he said. But he’s happy how it went.

“It’s cool that that many people can see me and know St. Jude is in the middle of this.”

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