BRIGHTON, N.Y. — Sam Julian's whole life changed just days before his 18th birthday. Doctors discovered a biopsy on the Brighton senior's thyroid came back as cancerous, during what was supposed to be a routine physical,

"First thing I thought, 'was I going to play football again?'" Sam said.

For a close-knit Brighton Baron team, their teammate's diagnosis put everything in perspective.

"I think that was really a pretty difficult moment; something I hadn't been through as a coach before," said Brighton head coach Stephen Lian. "When you bring together 16, 17-year-old kids and tell them that one of their best friends has cancer, their mind goes to the worst."

Sam had surgery to remove his thyroid and 63 lymph nodes at the Wilmot Cancer Institute.

"He had follow-ups the week after that and everything came back clean," said Lian. "At that point, we were just ready to turn the page and say 'what do we have to do to rehab and get your strength back so you can come back and play?' And that's been his focus. We're just excited that it's finally here."

Sam's doctors game him the OK he had been waiting for this past Monday.

"My mom said that when he told me that I just had the brightest look on my face, I was ecstatic," Sam said. "I'm just truly blessed that going through all that, I can come back and play football with my brothers."

Sam will take the field for the first time this season Friday night at Brockport.