Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series that talks about Class of 2013 Notre Dame graduate Jacob Milani and his battle against testicular cancer. The first part mainly discusses Jacob’s early beginnings as a Notre Dame student-athlete and an Ohio State University student.
When one talks to any young man or woman, one can only hope that the individual in question holds a strong attitude, strong morals, and a positive outlook on life.
And when one talks to 2013 Notre Dame High School graduate Jacob Milani, that’s exactly what they’ll find. The 22-year old student, who is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University, learned many of those qualities as a standout student in the classroom and as a three-sport contributor (baseball, basketball, football) for the Titans during his playing career.
He’s needed every one of those to fight his latest battle.
Milani, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, has been fighting testicular cancer , a very rare form of cancer that is found in less than 20,000 cases per year, since April.
According to Medline Plus, testicular cancer mainly affects young men between the ages of 20 to 39 who have had abnormal testicle development, have had an undescended testicle, and have had a family history of the cancer. It can include pain, swelling, or lumps in the testicles or in the groin area.
However, Milani hasn’t flinched in the eye of the severe diagnosis. Where does that poise come from, you ask? The very family that had a hand in his development.
“The support has been incredible,” Milani said of the Notre Dame community. “That’s one of the things that I love about being a part of Notre Dame. The community is so small, but everybody treats each other like family. It was evident, in the support that I received after I went public with my diagnosis, how great these people really are. The outpouring of support really took me by surprise as soon as I went public with my condition. I can’t say enough about them. They’ve just been wonderful.
It’s meant the world to me,” Milani continued. “I’ve already tried to treat people the best that I can because you never know what somebody is going through behind closed doors. I want to treat people the way that I want to be treated. With something like this happening, it’s truly been amazing.”
Drew Mader, however, knew that Jacob was well on his way to becoming a special young man long before Milani faced the difficult news of the diagnosis.
In fact, Milani, who is considered by Mader to be a sparkplug of an individual, stood out in elementary and grade school for his manners, his confidence, and his ability to lead by example.
“I’ve known Jacob for quite a while, even before I coached him in high school baseball,” Mader said. “I had the pleasure, whenever I came back and was hired full-time at Notre Dame, to be around him for a few years and get to coach him. He’s a super kid, very well-mannered, and has been brought up the correct way. You can tell just in his respect level for others, by the way that he speaks to adults or anybody that he has any kind of correspondence with. He’s very well-spoken, and he’s very intelligent. So whenever he graduated and went on to Ohio State, I knew that he would succeed. He’s a brilliant kid, not only outside of the classroom, but inside of the classroom. He’s top-notch, he’s very smart, and he uses it to his advantage.”
Jacob’s ability to galvanize his teammates and take advice in a pleasant manner, along with his high IQ — both on and off of the football field — paid major dividends in more ways that one as Milani was a four-time All-SOC I honoree between the gridiron and the diamond. In football alone, Milani earned All-SOC I honors three times, and in his senior season, Jacob earned All-SOC I accolades in both baseball and football.
Those accolades, however, didn’t even compare to what Milani did in the classroom. Not only did Milani serve as the President of the Spanish Club and the Key Club in addition to being class president, he was picked as the boys recipient of the Wendy’s High School Heisman for his school by obtaining a 4.0 GPA throughout his high school career. Fittingly, the hardworking leader was honored as the 2013 valedictorian upon his graduation from Notre Dame.
And according to Mader, it was all of those qualities that made Jacob Milani such a well-respected leader inside of all of the sports programs and activities that he was a part of while at Notre Dame High School.
“During high school, Jacob stepped up as an upperclassman, even though he didn’t play all four quarters of a basketball game,” Mader said. “He knew his role as a player and he made everyone around him better just because of his encouragement. His love for the game really spread to all of the younger kids, and even the older kids that were around him, because they looked up to him. Everything’s not great in life. Sometimes, you’ve got to work really hard to become great, and sometimes, you’ll come up short, but you’ve got to work even harder to make sure that it doesn’t happen. He took that in stride. If something wasn’t going his way, he made sure to basically work twice as hard so that he could achieve his end goal.”
At Ohio State, Milani was well on his way to accomplishing many of the goals that he had in high school. In order to graduate on time, Jacob — who by 2016 had a job as a pharmacy technician at a CVS Pharmacy in Columbus — took seven classes this past spring.
“I was getting ready to graduate,” Milani said. “It had been a particularly difficult semester as far as classes were concerned because I was having to take seven classes in order to graduate on time. I was finally getting near the end of the road. I couldn’t wait to relax over the summer.”
Unfortunately, life, as it tends to do, can knock people to the canvas.
Look for Part Two of Jacob Milani’s story in an upcoming edition of the Portsmouth Daily Times.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7