Chicago Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas is tackling something greater than football.
He stopped by Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale to raise awareness of epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes repeated seizures.
Employees signed a banner in support of 14-year-old Anthony Granberry, who is epileptic. He met the athlete at a holiday party for youth.
"The biggest thing I learned from Anthony is that the best thing you can do for a person is to make them feel good, and just like he made me feel like the best player in the world when I met him at the holiday event, I want him to feel like the best kid in the world," Thomas said.
Holy Cross was the first stop on a 1,300-mile road trip to Chicago, where Thomas and volunteers from the newly established J.T. Thomas Foundation will surprise the South Side native with a ticket to the big game.
"It's such a beautiful thing," Granberry's mother, Tonya Harris, said from Chicago in a phone interview. "I can't even explain it, this just don't happen to anyone."
It will be her son's first football game. Harris said her son developed epilepsy at age 7 and much of his time is spent in the hospital. She has noticed a change in her son since he met the Bears player, though.
"He's a little bit more perky, he knows he's someone special. He says J.T. is his buddy," she said.
Thomas' mother, Andrea Blanks, helped organize the road trip, a first for the foundation.
"One thing that has always remained the same about J.T. is his heart. No matter how tough he may be on the field, he's so mushy on the inside and he always wants to help in any way he can," she said.
Come Sunday the focus will be on the game, but more importantly, on friendship.
"I think the Pats may take the Giants, but we played the Giants this year and they were pretty tough," Thomas said. "I won't be cheering for anyone, just making sure Anthony have a good time."
The next stop for Thomas and volunteers is an epilepsy center in Orlando.
They plan to stop by at least four others along the way, before arriving in Chicago to surprise Anthony on Friday.