LA CROSSE, WI -

There's nothing 11-year-old Nathaniel Powell loves more than football.

"You just get to run with the football while the kids are trying to tackle you," Nathaniel said. "It's really fun."

But this summer, that was taken away from him.

"I was just sad because I couldn't play for a long time," said Nathaniel.

"That was initially the hardest part for him, was that he wasn't going to be able to play football with his friends," said his dad and Boys and Girls Club team coach, Jimmy. "That's the biggest worry of an 11-year-old at that point."

Nathaniel was diagnosed with stage 3 thyroid cancer in June.

"It was the only part of the process that made me cry, was the initial phone call," Jimmy said. "Since then, he's kept us all going."

Jimmy usually coaches his son. Through two surgeries and radiation treatment, however, Nathaniel told his dad to keep his eyes down-field.

"I asked him if he wanted me to continue coaching and he said, if he could play the last play of the last game, he wanted me to be there on the sideline for him," Jimmy said.

"Because I really like my dad a lot and I like it when he coaches because it's really special," Nathaniel said.

Jimmy kept coaching the team through the summer. Nathaniel attended every practice he could. This fall, he missed the first two games but was healthy enough to play in week three. His dad was on the sidelines, coaching.

"He took out some frustration I think on his first run," Jimmy said. "We sent him right up the middle, and he ran for about 15 or 20 yards."

"I told him that I was so excited and that it just turned everything around," Nathaniel said.

It was a run as strong as Nathaniel.

"You always hear children are resilient," Jimmy said. "It solidified when you see it first hand."

The Powell family will receive test results in January to ensure he has a clean bill of health.

Nathaniel goes to Summit Elementary, meaning he'll eventually attend (and possibly play football for) Logan. He's been in the stands for almost every Rangers home game this season and will be there Friday night for the big game against Holmen.