Brian Orakpo with leukemia patient Brendan Kelly, who passed away in May 2013. (via Brian Orakpo with leukemia patient Brendan Kelly, who passed away in May 2013. (via

When the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society honors patients at various events, it calls them “patient heroes,” and for good reason. Tyler McMillian and Brendan Kelly were scheduled to be the patient heroes at Monday’s Brian Orakpo Leukemia Golf Classic, but when Orakpo sat down with the media for a chat before the event, he brought some sad news that 14-year old Kelly had passed away last week after his cancer had returned.

“It especially means a lot this year because one of the kids that we sponsor passed away last Tuesday,” said Orakpo, who met and spent time with the boy when Kelly was a patient hero for 2011’s event. “I want to dedicate this year specially for him.”

It was a grim reminder of why the event is important. So important, in fact, that coach Mike Shanahan counted it as a workout day for any player who attended.

“Anything I can do to encourage players to get involved, I’m happy to do it,” Shanahan told me, when I caught up to him at the first hole at Trump National Golf Course.

Despite the sad news to start the day, the players were in good spirits as they sat in their dedicated carts waiting for the tournament’s shotgun start.

“I’m in no position to be trying to compete with anybody out there,” said Orakpo, when I asked which teammate was his biggest competition. “It’s funny that I host a golf tournament and I’m terrible at golf.”

I asked Chris Chester the same question.

“All of them,” he laughed. “I am big and I golf, but I am not a big golfer.”

Ryan Kerrigan, who spends a little more time on the course than Orakpo and Chester, had set his sights on a couple of teammates he’d be looking out for.

“Evan Royster, I think,” he said. “He and Kai [Forbath] are pretty good golfers.”

The Redskins kicker argued that he only looks like a good golfer.

“I think it’s just because I’m dressed like a golfer right now,” laughed Forbath, whose fitted turquoise pants and bright white shirt and shoes caused more than one teammate to tell him that he looked like he came to Sterling, Va., straight from the European Tour.

The event has long been connected with the Redskins, and this year the tournament had grown so large that they had to utilize both of the club’s courses to accommodate the folks who had paid for the opportunity to golf with their favorite Redskins players. Those players were more than happy to have the honor.

“It’s a great cause,” said Kedric Golston, who joked with his assigned foursome about his golf skills. “I’m going to come out here and support it any way I can.”