The cancer had gone undetected, festering in Kevin Singleton's
body for who knows how long. When it finally revealed its sickly
presence in July 1989, the summer before his senior year at
Arizona, the leukemia was already in its acute stages. Kevin
immediately began intense chemotherapy and radiation treatment,
but the sessions proved ineffective. Six months later his only
option was to get a bone-marrow transplant from his twin
brother, Chris, now a Miami Dolphin outside linebacker.
Until Kevin's leukemia was discovered, the brothers' lives had
been as congruent as parallel lines. Both had been all-county
linebackers at Parsippany (N.J.) High School. Both had earned
all-conference honors in their junior years at Arizona, and both
were highly regarded pro prospects. But as Chris blossomed in
his senior year into one of the nation's finest linebackers,
Kevin literally shriveled up. Chris's on-field triumphs were
balanced by frequent trips with Kevin to the emergency room or
nights spent cleaning infections on Kevin's arms. By season's
end Chris was assured he would be a high pick in the 1990 NFL
draft. Without a bone-marrow transplant that January, Kevin
wouldn't be there to see it.
"I didn't think the operation would affect my draft status,"
says Chris. "I actually hoped something bad would happen to me,
and Kevin would end up with this great life." Kevin's cancer
went into full remission soon after the operation. He even came
back to play his final season at Arizona and today is a graduate
assistant coach for the Wildcats.
Chris, meanwhile, was drafted in the first round by the New
England Patriots. When he made his first visit to Boston, just
after the draft, no one from the Patriot organization met him at
Logan Airport. He took a shuttle bus to his hotel, but there
wasn't a reservation in his name. On the field Singleton felt
even less at home. In 3 1/2 seasons he played for three different
coaches and never registered more than 60 tackles a year. Bill
Parcells, who took over as Patriot coach in 1993, didn't feel
Singleton fit into his defensive system and waived him before
the year was out.
The Dolphins signed the 6'2", 245-pounder three days after his
release from the Pats. By the opening of the '94 season
Singleton had earned a starting job in Miami. "Anytime you can
get a former Number 1 with the talent Chris has you're lucky,"
Dolphin coach Don Shula says. "And his contributions were most
obvious when he was gone." With five games left in '94 Singleton
broke his left leg. At the time he ranked second on the team in
tackles; without his quick reads and athleticism, the Miami
defense gave up 202 rushing yards in a 22-21 playoff loss to San
Singleton has come back this year without losing a step. Going
into Monday night's game with Pittsburgh, he was leading the
Dolphins in tackles with 20, including a team-high 13 in Miami's
dominating 20-3 win over New England in Week 2. "After my
brother's cancer, football obviously became less important,"
Singleton says. "Maybe as a result of that I played better. I
lost a little of that perspective in New England. But as I've
gotten older, I've regained it."
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKESThe Dolphin linebacker--holding a picture of himself (87), twin Kevin and mom Margaret--gave his brother the giftof life. [Chris Singleton]