ATHENS, Ga. — Graduation day meant much more to Georgia fullback Bruce Figgins than earning a degree.
He had overcome five years worth of personal pitfalls and hurdles, both on and off the field, and had ridden a roller coaster of emotion as his team struggled.
But the presence of Figgins’ mother, Kim Figgins when he earned his diploma turned a red-letter moment in his life into a day of celebration for the entire family.
Because the same time Bruce Figgins finished his senior season and checked off his degree requirements, Kim Figgins put up her own fight with breast cancer.
“When you’re in school and you’re taking your classes, you think, ‘I can’t wait to finish, I can’t wait to finish,’” Bruce Figgins said. “But when it hits, it’s more for your family to enjoy and a chance to see your parents and make them feel proud. It’s more for them. I was excited that whole night and leading into that morning. She said she was proud of me and it felt good. It felt really good.”
Bruce Figgins received his degree in communications studies on Dec. 16 with his entire family watching.
“It was a big, big moment for all of us,” Kim Figgins said. “It was a very proud moment in our family’s life, and we knew he could do it. That’s what we sent him there to do. When he went there, he thought he was just going to play football. But we wanted him to graduate and he did that. It was a very emotional moment and it was very overwhelming.”
Doctors caught Kim’s cancer in its early stages and it has retreated.
Figgins began his senior season with a position change from tight end and became a starter at fullback. The team lost its first two games and speculation swirled about the program’s direction under Mark Richt.
Then Kim Figgins told her son that she was undergoing treatments for breast cancer.
“When you hear that word, you automatically expect the worst,” Bruce Figgins said. “You just don’t know. But I have a praying family, a strong family.
There was a lot on me because I wasn’t sure. But we did a lot of praying about it. We’re still praying about it and you hope for the best. I see her right now and she’s good. She’s doing well. They caught it early, so she’s doing well.”
The team wore helmet stickers in honor of Kim Figgins during the Tennessee game. In the weeks after receiving the news, Figgins’ playing time increased, the Bulldogs won 10 consecutive games and Kim Figgins’ health improved.
“This whole year’s been a blessing,” Bruce Figgins said. “Just starting with the season and my contributions to the team has been a blessing. I was able to graduate. Our team made it to a bowl game and had a winning record going into the bowl game. I wouldn’t change anything. You can’t complain about what happened this year. I had a good season and I’m happy. My mom is doing well. She’s all smiles.”