FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder had surgery for testicular cancer last spring then went on to start every game, including the Super Bowl victory.
Teammate Matthew Slater said Tuesday he was aware of it and the way Solder "handled that last year was really admirable with so much courage and a positive attitude, a sense of peace."
ESPN reported Tuesday that Solder was diagnosed during the team's voluntary offseason program last April after a standard physical. He had surgery three days later and returned by June for the end of organized team activities.
Solder said he was surprised by the diagnosis and stressed the need for early detection. The report added that while Solder made a quick recovery he is sensitive to others who have more significant surgery and treatments.
"I was completely healthy, I'm a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody," he told ESPN. "Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that's who it's really targeted toward."
The 27-year-old Solder is entering his fifth NFL season after the Patriots drafted him in the first round out of Colorado.
Doctors determined the cancer was restricted to one testicle and hadn't spread, according to the report.
The Patriots said they would have no comment.
"I have so much respect for Nate Solder and the type of man that he is," Slater said on the first day of this year's voluntary offseason program, "the faith in God that he has and the way he carries himself. I can't think of anyone who's handled the situation like that better than he did."
Safety Devin McCourty said he doesn't know if all the Patriots were aware of Solder's cancer.
"As a teammate, you're just blown away by everything he was able to do," McCourty said, "getting over that, still playing at a high level, to me, was highly impressive."
Solder mentioned during his physical that he felt something in the affected area.
"It was a complete surprise," he said. "Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn't have checked it, saying, 'Oh, it's just in my head, I'm going to be fine.'"
The results of checkups every three months are what he hoped for, the report said.
"The biggest thing is letting people know and giving them the information. And maybe giving people some courage that if they are in a situation like I was, maybe they would go and say something, and that could make a difference," Solder said.