February 7, 2020 seemed like just another day at the office for Jack Cloran.
As hundreds of students, teachers, parents, and alumni poured onto the second floor of the fieldhouse to support him, Cloran appeared to be more occupied by defensive strategies than anything else, talking with his team and perfecting handshakes with his friends. When Luke Kania ’19 announced the names of the starting lineup for Senior Night against Germantown Academy, Cloran moved around like he was ready to take the opening tip.
I stood there in the crowd, dazed. Just three months prior, when the news of Jack’s cancer diagnosis shocked the Haverford community, Sixth Formers walked the halls with stricken faces. Nobody spoke. Students left class to call their parents.
“It all made me really uncomfortable,” Cloran said. “I wanted everything to be as normal as possible. That [extra attention] weirded me out.”
Indeed, even though the stellar wide receiver, college basketball fanatic, and rowdy student-section leader had always been well-known at Haverford, he had entered a new kind of spotlight.
His public appearances were limited. Chemotherapy made it difficult to leave the home. Still, Jack’s peers rallied around him; student morale rose and the attention died down.
But Jack’s tumor grew significantly in those months, and, on February 11, the leg was scheduled to be amputated mid-femur. All the attention came rushing back. The game happened.
“He just wanted to be Jack Cloran, the kid, the student, and the athlete. He never wanted to be that-kid-who-has-cancer,” Upper School Learning Specialist Mr. Steve Cloran, Jack’s father, said. “Our goal was to get the gym as packed as possible for his classmates.”
Chris Tsetsekos was hitting the wall with other lacrosse players around the time. The group had to stop midway through. “There was a strong sense of gratefulness for Jack being in our lives and it made us feel something,” Tsetsekos said. “It’s hard to describe, but I think we all just needed a moment to take in the reality.”
That sentiment spread quickly throughout the school.
Proof came the following week; Cloran’s sudden return via social media was a spectacle. A surprise post of his senior year football highlights, captioned “thank you,” was viewed over ten thousand times. His picture with 76ers shooting guard Matisse Thybulle went viral. Just a few days later, a different picture with Saint Joseph’s guard Ryan Daly (whose 20.2 points per game is currently tied for 20th in the nation) reached similar heights.
“When I saw him I just told him ‘good luck’” Daly said. “But if I could say something now I would definitely tell him he’s in my thoughts. He’s got all of Delco praying right now.”
“A lot of people think he leans on us, but he’s really been the one setting the tone,” Sixth Former Ben Murphy, a close friend of Jack’s, said. “We’re feeding off his energy.”
Haverford, and especially the class of 2020, need Jack Cloran more than he needs us.
“When his friends are over or at the hospital, he just gets such a lift from them being in the room,” Mr. Cloran said. “He’s a community guy, he’s a team guy. When he’s around his friends and his teammates, he’s just so happy. He just thrives off of being with the guys he loves.”
So does he need us? Or do we need him? Perhaps we’ll never know for sure. Perhaps the answer exists somewhere in the universe, and we, as a class, will find it one day. As of right now, it’s Schroedinger’s mentality. Both are true at the same time.
I just look back on that game with admiration— for both Jack and my classmates— equally.
Personally, I think the answer is irrelevant. I just look back on that game with admiration— for both Jack and my classmates— equally.