Kid Captain Cormac Faley travels to Illinois to cheer on Hawkeyes

Cormac was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2017. He finished his chemotherapy treatments in 2020.


Grace Smith

Kid captain Cormac Faley poses for a photo with his guests and head coach Kirk Ferentz during Iowa football’s Kids’ Day at Kinnick in Iowa City on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

Ariana Lessard, Assistant Arts Editor

Kid Captain Cormac Faley, from Asbury, Iowa, finished his chemotherapy treatments in 2020. The now 12-year-old was diagnosed with T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in May 2017 and has been in remission for almost two years.

Faley was experiencing sporadic stomach aches, nausea, and low-grade fevers before doctors detected cancer in his blood. The Faley family — consisting of Cormac, his mother Jennifer, and his father Patrick — left Medical Associates Clinic in Dubuque and set off for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital the same day Cormac received his diagnosis.

Cormac underwent chemotherapy for more than three years.

All three Faleys recall the tumultuous process of Cormac learning to take medicine on a regular basis. Cormac adjusted fine to the IV medicine. The addition of at-home oral prescriptions, however, proved challenging. Cormac would often throw up his oral medications, so he would have to take medication multiple times. 

“It gets better,” Cormac said. “If you don’t think about the medicine that’s coming, it’s easier. When you just feel down the next couple years or a couple months or however long, it’s like, ‘Oh my god.’ That can be overwhelming. But you take it a little by little. Just take one squeeze at a time. One day at a time, one squeeze.”

Jennifer said UI students who participate in Dance Marathon and her son’s physicians played a big role in keeping Cormac’s spirits up while he was getting care at the children’s hospital.

“Everyone was really wonderful,” Jennifer said. “From all the providers, the doctors, nurses, child life specialists, and then to have people like the students from Dance Marathon join in, who really almost became part of our care team as well. They were improving his quality of life with the games and the visiting. [Cormac] made some good friends through that. He was able to build some friendships that we considered best friends.” 

Cormac is the Kid Captain for this week’s Iowa-Illinois game, which will be played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Cormac could hardly contain his excitement after he was named a Kid Captain.

“Probably just like excited like just it wasn’t this and then this and then this and then ‘Hey, captain!’” Cormac said. 

Kid Captains aren’t celebrated on-field during away games, but the Faleys will still make the trek to Memorial Stadium in Champaign to watch Iowa take on Illinois. Cormac did, however, get a chance to celebrate his captaincy at Kinnick Stadium when his family attended Iowa football’s home matchup with Nevada on Sept. 17. UIHC provided the Faley family, and the rest of this year’s away Kid Captains, with seats at the game.

“Being able to go there was incredible — having good seats and having a good view,” Cormac said. “I got to be on the jumbotron, which was fun. That’s really nice. That’s really exciting.” 

Jennifer said the recognition Cormac got didn’t end with an appearance on the Kinnick video board. Neighboring Hawkeye fans in the stands showered Cormac with fist bumps and congratulated his family.

Cormac is ecstatic for the Hawkeyes’ 6:30 p.m. road matchup with the Fighting Illini Saturday, and he said he’s thankful to be a Kid Captain.

“There’s just so many kids who are applying to be a Kid Captain,” Cormac said. “And there’s only around eleven games. And like, hundreds and hundreds of kids are signing up. You’re just like, ‘Holy crap, I got it.’”