Mike Golden’s seen his players win a lot of battles over his nearly 30 years of coaching football in Central Ohio.
More than 200 … including a Division III state championship.
None, though — not even the title game — were bigger than the one the three-year Hayes coach is continuing to fight, and win, each and every day: his battle with lung cancer.
For now, the cancer is gone. A scan in early June confirmed it, and doctors gave Golden the green light to coach this fall.
“I was with my wife, Susie, at The James when I got the news,” he said. “I’m cancer free in a sense, but you’re never totally free because of the kind I have. So, I don’t want to tempt fate here, but it was great news. It’s almost totally gone, so it’s at a place where it’s really controlled and I can live my life.”
Which, as you can imagine, revolves pretty heavily around football.
“Here lately we’ve been getting out and doing some 7-on-7,” Golden said. “Once you get out there, obviously, it feels really good. I feel really good. I’m going to be tired … I’m 61, too. But the chemo, you know, it has some lingering effects. I’m going to be tired, but I’ve got such great assistants. I’ll be out there, I’ll manage it, and we’ll do our best.”
Golden’s back to doing what he loves to do, the very thing he’s done for the last 28 years at Watterson (1988-2002), New Albany (2004), Upper Arlington (2005-13) and now Hayes. He’s back to coaching.
It’s what he was doing in the early stages of the season last fall as his Pacers won three of their first four games. After the 3-1 start, though, things turned for Golden and his team, which finished 4-6.
He was officially diagnosed Sept. 23, given about a 25-percent chance to beat it. The position of the tumor made it too risky to operate and the cancer spread to his throat, complicating things a bit further.
The treatment was aggressive — four rounds of chemotherapy and 40 straight days of radiation. It was tough, but nothing he and his support system of countless family members, friends and the entire Delaware community couldn’t push past.
Golden said his wife, in particular, wouldn’t let him give in.
“It was very difficult,” he said. “Mentally, it gets you down because you can’t do very much, but my wife was awesome. She made this happen … she made my healing happen by keeping me with a great attitude and taking care of my every need. I don’t know how else to say it. My family and many, many friends were wonderful. They give you so much positive energy. Everything helps, and with all that you get through it.”
While undergoing treatment, Golden was named to the inaugural class of the Central District Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He also received the Tyson Gentry Courage Award from the Columbus Chapter of the National Football Coaches Foundation and a Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity award from the OHSAA.
Now that he’s been cleared to coach, he’s looking to help the Pacers win some awards of their own. When he was sidelined, his assistants and the players kept right on going.
“I just feel like we’re making strides every year,” he said. “The kids are paying the price …. they’re doing all the things they’re supposed to do. We feel like there’s a lot to do, but we are headed in the right direction.”
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.