KNOXVILLE - Peek inside six-year-old AJ Cucksey’s bedroom, and you will know one thing for sure.
He’s an avid Vol fan.
“It’s a picture!” Cucksey said. “Of the checkerboard, and the guys drinking Gatorade, and the cheerleaders!”
A “Smokey” lamp, helmets of all shapes and sizes, a UT quilt and even a checkerboard wall can all be found in the space.
He loves everything about the Big Orange, especially cheering on his buddy Joshua Dobbs.
It’s a friendship that began during a difficult season for AJ.
"Oct. 19, 2014 AJ was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors,” said his mother, Shannon. “He was on chemo for a year, he had 41 treatments.”
AJ first met Dobbs when patients at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital were invited to attend a UT football practice.
“AJ at the time was in a wheelchair, on lots of medication, steroids, a really tough time, didn't have the use of the left side of his body,” said Shannon. “They didn’t treat AJ with pity, they realized that he loves football and he was excited to be there.”
This one time meet-and-greet became much more when the quarterback asked to come visit AJ at home.
"I grew up in Knoxville, I understand when the starting quarterback of UT football wants to come see your kid I understand the celebrity of that, and I thought, 'yeah, it will be a neat experience,'” said Shannon.
"No one predicted their relationship would blossom the way that it did," she said.
A onetime meet-and-greet became visits at Christmas, Easter and AJ’s birthday.
"When you look at as a parent, what type of people I want my son or my children to aspire to be like and to emulate, Josh represents that fully,” said Shannon.
This weekend, the pair were featured on ESPN’S College Game Day.
Now a cancer survivor, AJ still has small battles to fight, and his mom is glad Dobbs can be by his side.
"You take away the cancer and you take away the football, and the cameras and all these other things and they are just two boys who like to have fun,” said Shannon. “I feel like when you see them play together they are in their own world in a really great way.”
Shannon says she is most impressed by Dobb’s humbleness and dedication to his faith.
AJ and Dobbs' friendship was inspiration for UT Artist Payton Marie. Payton decided to immortalize the two on "The Rock" on campus the night before the Vols took on Kentucky at Neyland.
Josh Dobbs said he was humbled that Payton highlighted their friendship.
The family is looking to help other children in AJ’s shoes. If you would like to be involved visit their Facebook page Prayers for AJ Cucksey.
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