Jets Sanchez choked up over death of young fan


Here’s a reprint of a story from Rich Cimini and ESPN New York.  It’s about Aiden Binkley, a 11 year old from Queens, NY, who passed away last week from cancer.  Apparently the young man and New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez developed a friendship and Sanchez remembered Binkley on the radio this week.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez went to work Tuesday, preparing for a big football game. Some 40 miles away, a little boy from Queens, N.Y., was buried — a friend of the New York Jets quarterback.

Sanchez and Aidan Binkley, 11, met each other only a few weeks ago, but they became fast friends. Binkley was suffering from a rare form of cancer, and he had only two wishes — he wanted his two brothers to stay healthy and he wanted to meet Sanchez.

And so he did.

Courtesy of the Binkley family

Aidan Binkley’s dream was to meet Mark Sanchez and the Jets. He got his wish.

Aidan visited the Jets’ training facility Dec. 15, and he received the VIP treatment, as if he were a big-name player making a free-agent visit. He watched practice and was escorted to owner Woody Johnson’s second-floor office, where he met Antonio Cromartie, Dustin Keller, Mike Devito and others.

And, finally, Sanchez. The people who were there say Aidan’s face lit up like Broadway at night.

“Nothing meant more to him than coming here and meeting Mark and meeting the Jets,” Keller said quietly Wednesday in the Jets’ locker room. “Great kid … a tough situation.”

The 24-year-old quarterback was immediately taken by Aidan and his upbeat personality and his love of the Jets. A few days later, Sanchez & Co. beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh — the biggest win of the season — and Sanchez sent his new friend a game ball.

Sanchez was deeply touched by Aidan, who battled rhabdomayosarcoma, according to a 2008 New York Daily News article. There was a lemon-sized tumor that spread from his pelvis to his lungs, and he required 60 weeks of chemotherapy.

The celebrity quarterback and his new friend became texting buddies and, one day, he surprised Aidan by showing up at his house. The boy was sleeping when Sanchez arrived, but Sanchez stuck around until he woke up. They ended up having a long conversation, like a couple of old friends. To this day, Sanchez and Keller still wear the green silicone bracelets that Aidan gave them.

“My man, Aidan … breaks my heart,” Sanchez said Tuesday during his weekly spot on “The Michael Kay Show” on 1050 ESPN Radio. “He’s so tough.”

Sanchez, choked with emotion, paused several times as he talked about Aidan, whom he met through the Teddy Atlas Foundation. Atlas, the boxing trainer and ESPN analyst, was a Jets special assistant under former coach Eric Mangini.   (Continue Reading)

“He brought me so much inspiration. … It’s hard to talk about him,” Sanchez said. “He meant the world to me. I felt like I’ve known him forever. … I saw his personality. I saw his competitive spirit. I saw him fighting every day.

“I’m complaining about a shoulder. Are you kidding me? … I think he was 11 years old, and he has cancer eating away at his body,” Sanchez continued. “This kid is fighting every day. He’s smiling every time I talk to him. I visited him at his home. I mean, he has to get carried up the stairs because he’s so weak and all he wants to talk about is L.T. [LaDainian Tomlinson] and Darrelle Revis and Rex Ryan and me.

“Oh, man, it kills you, just thinking about it. I love him to death.”

Sanchez was sitting at his locker before facing the Steelers, going over the game plan one last time, when he received a text from Aidan. His friend was concerned about the chilly weather.

“He’s saying, ‘It looks cold out there in Pittsburgh. I’m glad I’m watching from home. Good luck,'” Sanchez said with a chuckle. “Little stuff like that really fires you up.”

 Their friendship was born at a difficult time for Sanchez. The Jets were on a two-game losing streak after being embarrassed by the New England Patriots 45-3 and showing no energy in a 10-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Even Ryan admitted he thought about pulling his franchise quarterback from the Miami game.

“I’m not a happy camper, I’m upset, I’m frustrated,” Sanchez said. “I want to make it right. I want to hurry up and play another game.”

Along came Aidan.

“All I hear from someone is, ‘There’s a youngster who’s terminally ill with cancer and all he wants to do is meet you,’ ” Sanchez said. “It changes your whole world. It stops everything. You get a chance to step back. It’s really close to my heart. … He’s the best. I love him.”

Keith Sullivan, an Atlas Foundation board member, was struck by Sanchez’s sincerity. In that initial meeting, Sanchez and Aidan exchanged cell-phone numbers, Sanchez telling the boy, “I’ll shoot you a text later. We’ll talk.” And Sullivan hoped it wasn’t just lip service, a millionaire athlete trying to appease a star-struck kid.

Sanchez called. They talked.

“Aidan had a smile on his face for the last three weeks of his life,” Sullivan said.

Aidan lost his courageous battle last Thursday. Before the Jets’ game last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, the Jets honored him with a moment of silence.