Meet the Blue Hens' 5-year-old superhero

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NEWARK, Del. (AP) — In Trent Hurley's three years on the Delaware football team, this was the only time he knew he wasn't going to win.

And that was perfectly acceptable.

Running onto the Blue Hens' practice field earlier this month, 5-year-old Danny Feltwell had just yelled to Delaware fullback/tight end Ryan Cobb "Hey Cobb, you and me against him!," and pointed to Hurley.

On first down, Hurley dutifully scrambled and then fell into a heap as Danny tackled him.

On second down, the football floated out of Hurley's hands and into Danny's.

"Interception!" shouted the Delaware quarterback, who'd likely never been so delighted to see the football land in opposition hands.

Two years ago, through the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, the Delaware football team "adopted" Danny, who was then in the midst of a 17-month stay at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children while being treated for T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare and very aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

When Danny was introduced during Delaware's 2012 Homecoming football game against Rhode Island, "he couldn't run more than 10 feet without falling down," said his father, Dan Feltwell Jr. The chemotherapy, which Danny received for 2½ years, left him that weak. A tumor larger than the size of an adult heart had been lodged in Danny's chest when his cancer was discovered.

The first Delaware player Danny came to admire was running back Andrew Pierce, who graduated in May as the Blue Hens' No. 2 all-time rusher.

"He loves my son," Dan Jr. said. "My son loves him. Danny wanted to be like A.P. He wanted to run. He wanted to catch the ball. He wanted to play football."

Danny, who'll turn 6 Aug. 23, finished his treatment 16 months ago and his cancer is now in remission. When he attended a Delaware practice earlier this month, he played catch and took part in other spontaneous football games with Delaware kicker Garrett Greenway, punter Eric Enderson and long snapper Joe Fortunato while the Blue Hen offenses and defenses went through their drills.

He ran, passed, caught, kicked and tackled. Then Danny sat with the players under their tent when they had a drink break, sidling up next to his best buddy, Cobb.

Danny's treatment caused nerve damage and affected his balance and fine motor skills, his father said. But he's recovered better and more quickly than expected, which Dan Jr. credits to his association with Delaware football.

"When Danny was adopted by the University of Delaware football team, he fell in love with football," said Dan Jr., a single parent who has been aided by his parents, Dan Sr. and Millie, and lives with Danny at his parents' Margate, New Jersey, home.

"These players have given me the best gift that any parent can receive: To be able to play with my son. They've physically helped him."

When practice ended, Delaware players lined up and shook hands with Danny before heading into the locker room.

"This was ongoing when I got here and just a terrific thing for the kids to see," second-year Delaware coach Dave Brock said. "It gives them a very, very good perspective on 'Hey, regardless of the obstacles I have, not only do I have it really, really good, I have the opportunity to create great moments for somebody.' When you can do that, for us anyway, I think you have an obligation and you should do it.

"We do a lot of community service, but this is a young guy who has benefited from the relationship. I think our kids have benefited from the relationship, too. It gives a great perspective. I know it does for me, as a father of five."

Danny has his own locker in the Blue Hens' locker room and will watch the Delaware home opener against Delaware State Sept. 6 from the sidelines.

"I just love Delaware," said Danny, wearing a blue jersey bearing number 5, which was once worn by Joe Flacco, the ex-Delaware quarterback now in his seventh year as the Baltimore Ravens' starter.

The Blue Hens, it's very apparent, love him right back.

Danny has given them a better outlook on life, said Cobb, who has some perspective of his own. His father, Ed, a former U.S. Navy Seal, has been battling both breast cancer and melanoma. He's had 16 surgeries in the past 10 months.

"When he comes here, he has a huge smile on his face, no matter how he's feeling," Cobb said of Danny. "He's so excited to see us, and we love him. He makes you smile no matter what kind of mood you're in, no matter what kind of day we're having.

"We'll never have a day as tough as he's had. Ever. How tough is he, to be able to beat something like that? It's unbelievable."

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

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