A graduation story: Cancer survivor finds new lease on life at JSU

TimothyKendricks2Life was good for Timothy Kendricks. He was a popular basketball star at Wingfield High School. He had scholarship offers from numerous top-ranked universities. His skill on the court as a shooting guard was to be his ticket out of one of Jackson’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods.

Then, he was diagnosed with cancer by the age of 18. Initially, the cancer was misdiagnosed as terminal. Later, Kendricks learned it was treatable and he underwent chemotherapy and radiation. The cancer was gone within months, but so were his scholarship offers and dreams of an NBA career.  It would be another year or so before Kendricks discovered his higher education destiny lay at Jackson State University, and after three years on the campus, he’ll receive his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice during commencement exercises on May 4.

“I feel like this is the best HBCU I could have chosen. Jackson State has been like a new beginning for me,” said the 25-year-old Kendricks, who has been in remission for more than five years.

“When I met Timothy Kendricks, I knew there was something more to him.  It was evident that there was an untold story behind his passion of strongly wanting to succeed.  So one day in my office as we were working on his application for the FBI, he began to tell me his story,” said Jeremy Hodge, a coordinator in JSU Career Services. “I was overwhelmed and almost brought to tears by the struggles that this young man had to endure in pursuit of his successes.”

Kendricks always loved sports. He played football and basketball. He was nationally ranked and was a McDonald’s All-American nominee. Going into his senior year at Wingfield, he noticed changes with his body, including shortness of breath.

“After one game, I was coughing all night and was really tired. I knew something was up. I went to the doctor and they ran a lot of tests and they found it,” Kendricks said.

Kendricks had a Wilms’ tumor. It’s a cancer of the kidneys that’s typically found in children, rarely in adults. Kendricks said he’d had the tumor since childhood, but he didn’t show symptoms until he was in his late teens.

“It could have been terminal if I had waited one more month. It had spread to my lungs, but not my liver,” he said. “I felt that out of all people why did this have to happen to me? In a way, I felt betrayed.”

Kendricks let the universities know he was sick, and the letters and scholarship offers ceased. But, Kendricks had always had faith he could beat the cancer.  And, he did. He got back on the court and eventually played basketball at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala. That’s when he met then –Jackson State basketball coach Tevester Anderson.

“We talked about me joining his program.  That was in 2010. When I got here, I was able to compete, not on my previous level, but at the right level,” Kendricks said. “I just wanted to be on the court. I turned down a scholarship to Seattle State to come to Jackson State. I wanted to play in front of my family. I just wanted to be here.”

The degree he’ll receive next week represents more than the successful completion of his required courses; it’s symbolic of his resilience and determination. The youngest of five siblings, Kendricks is the first person in his family to receive a college degree. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and work with juveniles. Kendricks is currently writing a book with Hodge about his life because he believes his story can serve as an example that no obstacle is too difficult to overcome.

Shelia Byrd


  1. tay davis says:

    God bless my classmate Tim he is a strong man

  2. Its been a long time but I’m glad your doing good and your very blessed live your dreams!!

  3. Kimball Thornton says:

    This is a wonderful story with an amazing outcome. God Is Good All The Time. Sometimes we may not understand why some things happen as they do. But like the hymn writer says “We will understand it better by and by? I wish you the best in your future endeavors Tim and it is not where you come from but where you are going. God Bless You and Keep You!

  4. Jason Gibson says:

    I remember those Wingfield days. As a freshman guard at Callaway, I looked up to this guy and now he’s become a good friend of mines. Proud of you bro, wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.

  5. De'Metrius Smith says:

    Hey Tim I took a class with you and when all told our stories, and man I’m so proud of you. Keep your head up and walk in yiour destiny because GOD got your back the battles already won. Everytime I see you , you always treat me the same and you would take the time and speak and that means alot to me.Keep doing what you are doing because you are on the right track May GOD continue to bless a you and keep you. Your Classmate De’Metrius Smith(One of the Lead Singers of the Mississippi Mass Choir.

  6. Courtney W. Brookins says:

    What a powerful testimony!! May your determination coupled with God’s grace propel you to new heights. God bless


    What an inspiring testimony!! I met you through your brother and you presented such a humble spirit I am in awe of you and salute you as a super hero.

  8. Chioma Nwagboso says:

    Wow. what a touching story. Stay motivated, God will use your life in mighty ways :) Didnt know you well at Peeples, but there are so many special students that attended that school and schools like it. Glad that stories like this show that it doesn’t matter the zip code of the school you attend, but that God knows our destiny before the world ever sees us Jeremiah 1:5…. He knows the glory he has for our lives no matter what people say we will become and He will continue making us into what He wants us to become no matter what the environment around us tries to make us into.

  9. Jeremy Hodge says:

    Thank you Mrs. Shelia Byrd (JSU Communications Dept) for writing this story. I feel that this is exactly the platform that Timothy needs to fulfill one of his purposes in life. He is currently setting up his platform of public speaking and we can all agree that his story will touch both young and old alike. While doing so he hasn’t lost vision of his academics nor his career. Also, his book (which is being self-published) will be available by the end of the year.

  10. Joann says:

    Because JSU cares, he will be ok and he is well blessed.

  11. Mrs. C. Martin says:

    Tim, I’m so proud that you preserved in spite of the cancer. I know you remember the chaotic days at Peeples Middle School but you were always kind and displayed a respectful attitude toward the administrators, teachers, and staff. Who could forget that smile! Even after I left PMS, I had another opportunity to catch up on your progress when you and the team from Alabama came to Hinds Community College to take summer classes. I was so proud that you were continuing to pursue your education and desire to play sports.
    Please know that I wish you every success as you continue your educational endeavors and your life. There are more blessings ahead for you. I know your family will be beaming with joy as you receive your bachelor’s degree.

    Mrs. C. Martin
    DoD CESTEME Program Manager

  12. Shanquilla Arnold says:

    wow, classmate I never knew this. It is amazing how someone can walk by you or even have a ten minute conversation and never know what a person is or has experienced. I greatly salute you for all your efforts and I am always proud to see one of my Kings succeed! We have the same interests at heart and I never knew. I wish you all the best in life and God is in control so you know everything will be alright.

  13. Dr. Haralson says:

    This is a wonderful ending however I remember when this happened to Tim. In fact my son had played with Tim during middle school. Tim was a special person then as well now . Most importantly you are a success story in more ways than one. Keep in mind education is for a lifetime and sports is for a season. May Good continue to bless and keep you. Congrats Tim

  14. cinda catchinga says:

    I would love him to talk with my daugther Morgan Catchings who was diagnosed with leukemia this year and also played basketball (Lanier High School). She is a junior. We are starting a foundation that will provide support for athletes in similar situations. 6016130480.

  15. Darquita says:

    Timothy was always special. Ive known him since middle school (Peeples). We lost contact after a few years and I recently seen him at my job in the mall last year. Its heartbreaking to find out something like this on a website but it’s better to know he’s doing just fine. It’s no surprise he pulled through the cancer. Timothy has a purpose here and will succeed no matter what.

  16. Cali's Aunt says:

    Very proud of you Tim and praise God for healing power.I will truly miss you guys.

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