Late Saturday night at the Doubletree Hotel, UA cornerback Trevin Wade clutched a live microphone and sang, somewhat off-key, "Bear Down, Arizona."
He couldn't have known that two "old guys" at table 6 knew the song by heart, mouthing the words as Wade and five of his Wildcat football teammates entertained the audience at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society dinner.
Wade doesn't know Kevin Singleton. He didn't know Tony Bouie. He didn't realize the words of the song " … hit 'em hard, let 'em know who's who. …" applied in a twisted way to both of the former Arizona football stars.
Wade was born in July 1989, which was the worst month of Kevin Singleton's life. That's when doctors at University Medical Center told the standout Arizona linebacker he was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The news was so overpowering that UA football coach Dick Tomey broke down and wept.
A generation later, when Wade was a redshirt freshman, physicians at Arizona Cancer Center told Tony Bouie that he was suffering from Stage IV diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
Bouie was devastated and frightened; he feared that his daughters, Natalie, then 3, and Eboni, then 1, would have to grow up without their dad.
Nobody was singing happy songs.
Saturday night at the Doubletree, Wade and his UA teammates worked as celebrity waiters, volunteering time to serve the community and, they would discover, become teammates with two of the great Wildcat football players ever to sing "Bear Down."
They will learn, as have many ex-Wildcats, that the best conversations with Kevin Singleton and Tony Bouie begin with "I'm sure glad to see you again."
I've got a weakness for leukemia and lymphoma, and not just because it's such a strong disease. My sister, Becky, has been kicking the stuffing out of leukemia for the last four years, but it's such a tenacious opponent that it rarely lets you relax.
The joy of attending the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraiser is that it concentrates on the survivors, in this case Bouie and Singleton, and for a few hours you forget the mental scars.
Singleton is 43 now. Leukemia robbed him of a career in the NFL but you might say his medical crisis permitted him to experience more of life. He coached high school and college football, played in the Canadian and Arena leagues, went back to school to earn a master's degree and now works for a security firm in Phoenix.
"I try to come to this dinner every year," he said. "Without the research dollars generated, many of us wouldn't be here."
Research dollars at work: In January 1990, Singleton's teammate and twin brother, Chris, who would become a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots, participated in a bone marrow transplant that saved Kevin's life. Incredibly, seven months later, cleared for a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Kevin showed up for Arizona's fall training camp.
Someone had taped a large sign to the cafeteria wall at Cochise College that read "WELCOME BACK KEVIN SINGLETON."
Among the UA's freshmen class at Camp Cochise that year was Tony Bouie, a wide-eyed rookie from New Orleans who saw the training camp banner but had no idea he would someday be linked with Singleton forever.
Bouie, who is about to turn 38, had a particularly eventful career at Arizona. He became a consensus All-America safety, part of the Desert Swarm defense pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He also was a starting shortstop, a three-year letterman on Jerry Kindall's UA baseball team.
After Bouie's NFL career ended in 1999, he moved to Phoenix and patented a plastic, disposable cup used at convenience-store soda fountains. He started his own company. Money flowed. His life was rolling smoothly until leukemia intruded.
"I call chemo treatments 'the red devil,' " he says now. "It was sobering. But as of last week, my cancer has been in remission for two years."
With his first son, Malachi, a month old, Bouie is up and running again. He is campaigning for a seat in the state Senate (a Republican in Legislative District 4) and his enthusiasm for battling leukemia and lymphoma is similar to the spirit he displayed as a four-year UA football starter.
As he spoke to the audience at Saturday's fund-raiser, Bouie became animated. He started clapping. He raised his voice. It was game on.
"I'm here to celebrate," he said. "We've come so far."
At table 6, Kevin Singleton nodded and then applauded. The two old Wildcats had won the Big One.
Contact columnist Greg Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4362.