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Centennial's Zach Lederer plays football despite a brain tumor and a ventricular shunt in his skull

'He's just another guy'

Centennial senior Zach Lederer, who has a brain tumor and is risking his life to play football, discusses his battle with cancer. His parents John and Christine talk about the dangers and risks Zach faces. (Additional photographs provided by the Lederer family.)

During a recent seven-on-seven drill pitting Centennial's starting offensive skill players against the second-string linebackers and defensive backs, Lederer lined up opposite the outside receiver, a cornerback in man-to-man coverage.

When the ball was snapped, Lederer backpedaled, arms pumping at his sides. Before the wide receiver broke inside on a post route, Lederer turned and opened his hips. As the ball sailed toward him, recognizing it was a bit underthrown, Lederer jumped in front of the wide receiver to knock the ball away, a textbook pass breakup.

"For someone who's never played, he's done a great job picking things up," senior safety Edwin Heck said. "He's just another guy, honestly."

Although he was already respected because of how seriously he took his role as the team's manager - a few minutes after his pass breakup, Lederer put his head down and quietly volunteered to catch extra-point attempts, a manager's job - Lederer didn't have to win over any of his teammates.

"I had a lot of respect for him already, but now that he's playing, it's definitely gone up some," junior quarterback Jeremy Brown said. "Just what he went through and that he's playing football, that's pretty amazing."

Lederer, who practices as a backup running back and defensive back, doesn't fret about playing time. Although he's taken some hits in practice, he has yet to get in a game for the Eagles, who are 0-2 in Howard County and host Atholton on Friday afternoon. The only thing he does want is for others to take note of his story, to realize that they too can pick themselves up after something uncontrollable has knocked them down.

"I guess one of the main reasons I'm doing this is to inspire people to reach their full potential," Lederer said. "By managing, I was contributing to the football team, but I figure I can contribute to the whole community if I play football because now I'm inspiring more [people] as opposed to just sitting on the sideline. So, I guess to just affect more lives and inspire people is the real reason I did it."

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