The 49ers have had an amazing season proving that they are warriors both on the field and off. Throughout the year, one thing is certain that they would not be so strong without the unwavering support of their faithful fans. One fan in particular, Daphne Knecht, displayed unfathomable strength for the team during their last playoff game.
At the young age of 22, Daphne is fighting a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. She was diagnosed three years ago, but just learned last week that it had spread to the degree where she has been given a devastating prognosis. Prior to her diagnosis, Daphne was a champion gymnast who competed for Andrews University in Michigan. She comes from a big family and has always been a huge 49ers fan.
When Daphne was told she needed additional surgery that might limit her life, she responded by telling the doctors and her family that there was no way she was going before she had the chance to watch her favorite team play in the playoffs. In a display of amazing support, Daphne, her family and friends—men and women alike, painted their nails gold for Sunday's occasion.
"Daphne's short-term goal was to watch the 49ers game on Sunday, so the doctors did everything they could to get her awake to watch, and she did. She had a great time watching with her boyfriend and some friends, and she's been getting better little by little since then," said Daphne's dad.
When the 49ers heard about Daphne and her commitment to the team, they decided to pay her and her family a special visit.
"When she was told that some of the players were coming in a few minutes, her face just lit up. So, it made a big impression on her, which was awesome," Daphne's dad said.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25th, within hours of hearing about Daphne, 49ers LB Blake Costanzo, WR Joshua Morgan and FB Bruce Miller joined Daphne and her family in her hospital room at Stanford for an afternoon of delightful conversation, Tony Montana dancing and some laughs.
"It just makes me feel special. I know that's what everyone expects me to say, but it was more than special," Daphne said.
Daphne wasn't the only one who felt special after the visit, as she equally brightened up the players' days as well.
"It really means a lot, especially to see a girl who can relate to us, being an athlete and putting in all the hours practicing gymnastics. To see her go through something like that and see her still supporting us," said WR Joshua Morgan. "Just to see the smile we could put on her face and her family means more that I could have imagined and we're just glad we are able to do stuff like this because it's the motivation to make you want to be great, just for those moments like that. I think we probably got more out of it than she did."
During the visit, Daphne was even trading tricks of the gymnastics trade with LB Blake Costanzo, who surprised everyone with his knowledge of gymnast stunts.
"In the end, she's just a young 22-year-old girl and we treated her as one, like we were just hanging out like we would be hanging out with her at her house," LB Blake Costanzo said. "Every time you're just real with people, only good things can come out of it, so hopefully she had a good day. I know I had an awesome experience with her and it was awesome just having our teammates come out and support."
As an added surprise, through a personal connection, Blake arranged for Olympic Silver Medalist in gymnastics, Alicia Sacramone to call Daphne to lift her spirits.
Dr. Dan Garza, M.D., the 49ers team medical director helped shed some light on the significance of the day.
"It's important that it's another aspect between the 49ers and Stanford and it's also about perspective," said Dr. Garza. "After what was a really tough day for the team, they can still take the time out to make somebody else's day better. It shows a lot about our players."
The visit to lively Daphne certainly served to lift everyone's spirits and put some pep in their step as they made a few more visits to patients at Stanford, whose support helped carry them throughout the season. One patient had even turned his room into the ultimate fan-zone, completely decked out in red and gold and 49ers balloons and banners.
"Everything was decorated while we were watching the game," said the young man's mother. "He was wearing a 49ers hat and shirt, and there were balloons everywhere. It was amazing, beautiful and we thank you so much for being here today."
"I've had the chance to see these guys on a couple visits and every time they come, just seeing the smiles on the patients' faces means the world," said James Mattson, research assistant at Stanford University. "And it's so easy to see them have a positive effect on these patients' lives, so it's really cool the 49ers are able to do that."
Sadly, Daphne passed away on Saturday night, but the light of her spirit and smile will live on in the hearts of all the lives she touched.
Please visit Daphne's Prayer Warriors FB page: https://www.facebook.com/daphneswarriors