Scott Tolzien does a kindness

I wrote a column this week on Scott Tolzien. I didn’t expect to get all of the response I got. I was writing about how Tolzien is in the locker room, and I got letters from the Midwest about how he is as a person. Tolzien reaches out to kids who have cancer and builds and maintains friendships with them. Here is a letter I received unsolicited from the father of one of those kids:

Hello Grant,

My name is Tony Staniak, and I am the father of Ryan Staniak. In January of 2011, Ryan was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer.  Ryan was 10 at the time, and is now 13.

This was about two weeks after my son Ryan and I returned from California.  Ryan and I flew out to see the Rose Bowl with Scott at quarterback (not knowing him then).  A few months after Ryan’s surgery to remove the cancer, one of my wife’s relatives was a student at UW-Madison, and she talked with Scott Tolzien about my son’s cancer.  He jumped in right away, including having the Rose Bowl team autograph a football for my son, helping with a fund raiser for Ryan’s treatments, etc.

This was not a one-time deal with Scott. We’ve established a strong friendship and Scott routinely posts on Ryan’s Caringbridge site, he calls Ryan at our house to talk, and last year when the 49ers were opening their regular season in Green Bay we got to meet Scott on the Saturday before the game.  Scott could have chosen to spend that time with his family and friends, but in addition to seeing them he asked our family along with two other families that also have kids with cancer to spend a few hours with him at an Appleton restaurant (by the 49ers team hotel).

Scott not only has this kind of relationship with my son, but at least two other kids who are surviving cancer that we met on that day.  Scott’s mother has even posted on our Caringbridge blog, and when my son wrote a piece he called Ryan’s Alphabet for Life, Scott’s mom had it framed and put up one framed copy of it in Scott’s bedroom in their Illinois home, and sent another framed copy to our home.  We are very thankful for all that Scott and his family have done for Ryan and our family.

One more thing I thought I’d attach to the e-mail.  At our Wisconsin Children’s Hospital, to celebrate when a patient’s chemotherapy treatments are complete they have the patient ring a bell.  When Ryan’s day came in October 2011, he wore his 49ers Scott Tolzien jersey on that special day, which is a day none of us will ever forget.

Ryan is doing well.  While he has some items he has to deal with as a result of all the treatments he needed to go through, it has been almost 2 years since the end of his chemotherapy, and his quarterly MRI scans have been all clear from cancer.  We feel very lucky for the gift of more time we’ve received with our son Ryan.

Best Regards,


Here is Ryan’s Alphabet For Life:

A – Always believe

B – Be happy

C – Care for one another

D – Don’t give up

E – Enjoy life

F – Fantastic times

G – Great Experiences

H – Have fun!

I – Interesting facts

J – Jump and have fun

K – Keep your cool

L – Love your enemies

M – Make life last

N – Never stop going for your goal

O – Open your mind

P – Prepare for anything

Q – Quietly help

R – Remember lost ones

S – Stay intact

T – Try new things

U – Utilize time

V – Value life

W – Wait for others to help

X – Xtra fun

Y – Yip and yap to new people

Z – Zip your fly

Ryan ringing the bell

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  1. Grant thanks for posting this, can’t help a tear or two reading it….Ryan’s list has a lot of ideas we can all learn from.

  2. Using Ryan’s alphabet…
    T- Try new things
    O- Open your mind
    L- Love your enemies
    Z- Zip your fly
    I- Interesting facts
    E- Enjoy life
    N- Never stop going for your goal

  3. Thanks for posting this. There was a similar story with Tolzien when he was at Wisconsin. Tolzien is a stud at the game of life.

  4. Can’t help but to wish the BEST for Scott and especially Ryan! Stories like this just remind you of how some of these young men get it right when the make it to the NFL. Hip Hip Hooray for you Scott and we all hope you latch on to another team.

  5. Thanks for posting this Grant. From all the reports tolzien seemed like a stand up guy and this just confirms it. Im sure he will be sucessfull in life if not necesarily on the field. I wish him the best

  6. There are many sports writers who seem to dislike the athletes they cover [and i'm sure that some players have given them reason to dislike them] The writers experiences seem to have soured them to sports and all players in general. I have had the opportunity to know a number of ex professional athletes and the majority of them were men and women of the same character of Scott Tolzien. Grant this was a touching and exceptional article. Please do’nt let the jerks of the world sour you to all the great people in pro sports. Keep looking for the positive in the people you cover and you will have a great career. Thanks for writing this article it made my day…..OC

  7. Clearly Scott Tolzein is an All Pro in the game of life even though he may never be one in the game of football. I’ll wager that on the inevitable day, “When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against his name” Mr Tolzein will have nought to apologize for. (Thanks to Mr. Grantland Rice for the quote)

  8. My son was one of the kids Scott took under his wing and this family meet last year at the Packer-49ers home opener last year. My best friends son had cancer and meet Scott in Madison during a Badger practice which ESPN did a very good story on their friendship. A year later my 12 yr old son Jordan was diagnosed with embryonal rahbdomyosarcoma and as soon as Scott found out he asked my friend if it would be O K to contact our family. My son was a very good athlete and had just beat the state champion in wrestling a few short months before finding out he had cancer. Scott along with JJ Watt and Monte Ball were visiting Childrens Hospital and Scott called Jordan to see if he could come over to the hospital to meet JJ and Monte . Jordan just had a triple dose of chemo that day and a radiation treatment so he really wasn`t up for leaving the Ronald McDonald House to visit those guys. So after Scott got done with a couple hours of visiting sick kids he came over by himself and spent another two hours watching wrestling tapes with Jordan and I lifting both of our spirits on a gloomy day. Scott never does any of this for any reason other than he is one GREAT HUMAN BEING! He is like a big brother to Jordan and like a son to me. He calls us and other families all the time. I don`t know about you but when I was in my early 20s helping sick kids was not on my list. I admire Scott so much for what he does and who he is. Lastly, I am a former football coach and know a little about character and ability. Scott has an abundance of both. My only wish is that Coach MaCarthy and Ted Thompson see Scotts availability and we grab him for our roster as he fits perfectly in Green Bays scheme. San Fran was blessed to have Scott there now I hope we get the same blessing. Hug your kids today!

  9. Mr. Vanstrom …

    Thank you for your story and confirming Grant’s words ..
    Bless your son .. and all the other kids whose lives Scott Tolzien
    has touched !

    I echo the sentiments of the other posters here in wishing
    only the best for you and your family ..
    and also .. wishing Mr. Tolzien catches on with another team

  10. Thanks for sharing that letter, Grant. All too often we have to hear about the knuckleheads of the world and not about the good people.

  11. What a pleasure to get up and read such an uplifting article. I am a cancer survivor and I know what one caring individual can mean for your battle. That Scott has this depth of empathy, at such a young age, speaks to how wonderfully he was raised. I wish all athletes (and all others) had the same type of upbringing so they could feel the wonder of helping others in desperate need. Best of luck Scott. You are a MAN!

  12. We got our wish Scotty is now a Packer! Thank you 9er fans for all the positive posts on Scott and good luck this year.( Except week one ) :). Jeff Vanstrom

  13. It’s so much more rewarding to read posts like this rather the ones filled with personal animosity, which I usually stop reading quickly. I read every single one of these posts! Thank you, Grant, and fellow posters.

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