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The Caw: NFL Coaches (Even Mike Tomlin) Reach Out To Support Jenn Aparicio

Posted Apr 2, 2014

Sometimes the NFL is bigger than rivalries. It’s about coming together in support.


If you haven’t heard by now, WNST Owner Nestor Aparicio’s wife, Jenn, has leukemia, cancer of the blood.

She was diagnosed on March 20 and started chemotherapy two days later.

Last week, while lying in bed after another round, Aparacio got a call.

It was Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

“I want you to play like a Steeler,” Tomlin jokingly said before asking if there was anything he could do to help the Aparicios.

“Just don’t get any ideas about sending me some Steelers crap,” Jenn fired back with a grin.

“She’s only wearing purple, bro. That’s it,” Nestor said.

The three burst into laughter and Tomlin promised he wouldn’t be that ornery.

Sometimes you have to pull back the curtain on NFL adversaries and look at what’s behind them.

Yeah, the Ravens and Steelers are rivals. Bitter rivals. But when it comes down to it, we’re all people. And it’s good to see that the NFL is full of good people that can build bridges over craters.

Nestor and Jenn are a staple at the NFL owners meetings. They cover the event from a media perspective and then rub elbows with the coaches and executives the rest of the time.

Nestor has a longtime bond with Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis dating back to Lewis’ time as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator. Nestor’s relationship with Lewis (and of course Nestor’s chatty ways and gregarious personality) have helped him make friendships with coaches across the NFL, relationships that are rekindled over some drinks at the owners meetings every year.

One of those friendships has been with Mike Tomlin over the past six years. The two trade jabs incessantly.

“It’s ruthless. I get to [diss] on a Steelers coach and he loves it. Sign me up,” Nestor said.

Jenn was planning on pretend tripping Tomlin at owners meetings this year, a tease about the infamous on-field incident last season at M&T Bank Stadium. Leukemia derailed those plans.

In a flash, the Aparacios starting hearing from people around the NFL. Their first phone call after the diagnosis was to former Ravens defensive coordinator and Indianapolis Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who beat leukemia and returned to the sideline.

“Chuck knew before her mother and father,” Nestor said.

“Chuck has been a real angel. Chuck’s blowing up my email and text. Every day he’s sending inspirational messages, videos for her to see, helpful hints.”

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh reached out last Friday afternoon with a call out of the blue. When meeting with reporters on Tuesday, the first thing Harbaugh did was ask about Jenn’s health.

Owner Steve Bisciotti has also checked in and kept tabs of Jenn’s health. Bisciotti’s father, Bernard, died of leukemia when Bisciotti was just 8 years old.

“We’ve been shocked across the board about how many people have reached out to us,” Nestor said, saying it hasn’t just been NFL coaches.

“My wife and I, honest to God, strangely enough, are almost having a good time. We’ve had as much fun with this as much as we could possibly have given the circumstances. It’s a gift to us. We’re going to change lives, raise money, do cool stuff.”

Here’s a good story from Nestor on Jenn’s battle. Follow Jenn’s progress on Facebook and use the hashtag #JennStrong on Twitter. Pagano helped her coin that one.

We all know she’s going to fight it – like a Raven.

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