Les Miles on Sid Ortis: “He’s had a great life”
LSU fan and deceased teenage cancer patient Sid Ortis had hoped to be in attendance when his friend, coach Les Miles, brought his Tigers to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a clash with rival Alabama. Unfortunately, Ortis lost his fight with bone cancer on Oct. 31 at 16 years old.
ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi featured Ortis and the special bond he forged with Miles during ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday morning. Ortis grew up in Birmingham, Ala., but was raised as an LSU fan. Ortis might have been playfully ostracized for his fandom, but he relished the role.
“In Alabama, there’s not a lot of LSU fans so he was sort of a lone wolf a lot of times at school and he loved that,” Ortis’ father, Scott, told Rinaldi.
According to Rinaldi, Ortis recognized knee pain just before he entered high school. The pain led to a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.
“It’s the hardest thing you could ever say,” Scott Ortis told Rinaldi. “It is something you think you’re kid will never have. His face went completely blank. He went pale, almost void of emotion except the had these big brown eyes looking at me like ‘fix this,’ and you can’t.”
Sid went through eight months of chemotherapy before the cancer spread to his chest and lungs, Rinaldi reported. His community decorated the town in purple and gold, which are unfamiliar colors in Alabama. The gesture reached Miles and prompted him to call Sid. That moment initiated their friendship.
“It was a 15 or 20 minute phone call and he’s talking to Sid like he’s talking to one of his kids,” Scott told Rinaldi.
Miles eventually hosted the Ortis family at LSU’s victory over Auburn in the third week of the season. The two had a warm embrace on the field in what was their first meeting.
Today was a great football day
— Sid Ortis (@sidortis) September 20, 2015
“I told him I loved him,” Miles told Rinaldi. “I told him I loved him because he was bright and happy. With all of the difficulty that he was enduring, he had spirit and fight and a smile and enjoyment and wide-eyed. I realized he wouldn’t get many opportunities to do this again.”
Once Miles heard that Sid likely wouldn’t win his fight, he called Sid and asked him to save him a spot in heaven.
“I anticipated that this was a battle that his body would lose, but his spirit would overcome and that he’d have the opportunity to go to heaven,” Miles told Rinaldi. “I said ‘when you get up there, save me a spot.’”
Miles called Sid on Oct. 30 and he passed away the morning afterward.
“And to think he’s 16,” Miles told Rinaldi. “I want for every 16-year old to look forward to having a family and a great career and a life and the many joys that are the struggle of living. He’s had a great life, it’s just not quite as long as you would want for everyone.”
When there weren’t many moments left to be had, Les Miles was there for LSU superfan and Alabama-native Sid Ortis. Tom Rinaldi explains how Miles’ developed a relationship with Ortis as he battled bone cancer.
One last kicker. According to Rinaldi, Alabama coach Nick Saban invited Sid to an Alabama practice. Sid said no.