ATL UTD, faith inspire special fan to rally through illness

Atlanta United host Columbus Crew on Thurs., Oct. 26 in their Knockout Round match (7 pm ET, ESPN2, UniMás, TSN, TVAS) -- and, naturally, the usual pageantry and rituals will accompany their first foray into the post-season. This time around, rather than a celebrity, four fans chosen by supporters' groups will hammer the ceremonial pre-match Golden Spike. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has just profiled one of them, Josh Proctor. 

A diehard gridiron football fan, as the story tells it, Proctor attended one Atlanta United match this past March, vs. the New York Red Bulls -- and instantly fell in love. He immediately bought season tickets for himself, his wife, and four children -- but not long after, doctors diagnosed him with blood and bone marrow cancer. 

Through treatment, Proctor explains in the newspaper story, faith -- in both God and in Atlanta United -- has kept him going:

"I'd be depressed Monday through Friday. You're thinking about cancer every single day, but then Sunday morning or whenever the match was, all I was thinking about was getting up, getting dressed and getting down to the stadium," Proctor said.

Indeed, this Thursday's Knockout Round will mark Proctor's triumphant return to a home game in several weeks. Read his whole story here, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.