When Denham Springs High School boys soccer coach Chris Thorne says he is proud of his team, it's logical to assume he is referring to the team’s unbeaten record.

There is a much deeper meaning, however.

The Yellow Jackets have dedicated their season to former teammate Taylor Wilson, who recently had a brain tumor removed.

It's difficult for Thorne to find the words to describe a story that transcends the bonds of team and faith.

“Taylor Wilson is an amazing young man," he said. "I can’t begin to imagine what he and his family have been through,” Thorne said. “He is an inspiration to our team, and I am so proud of the way they have stepped up to be there for Taylor. We always talk about a team being like a brotherhood. They understand what that means.”

Wilson, a senior, played soccer as a freshman and sophomore.

Last spring, Wilson’s parents, Devin and Shawn, noticed a lump on his forehead that was getting larger. The diagnosis was a tumor. An initial surgery done locally removed only half of the tumor.

The family was referred to specialists at M.D. Anderson in Houston, and, on Nov. 15, Wilson underwent a five-hour surgery to remove the rest of the benign tumor that somehow had not yet pierced the membrane surrounding the brain.

Wilson said the tumor was about the size of a softball.

“The night before surgery was my low point. I was scared. I was thinking about having part of my skull removed," Wilson said. "When I saw those pictures of the guys getting their heads shaved my attitude changed. That lifted me up. I went into surgery so confident. It was what I needed. I’m ready to be there for them.”

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Wilson remembers certain details before and after the surgery. Just as vivid were the pictures that popped up one-by-one on his cell phone the night before surgery. Those photos showed each DSHS soccer player getting their head shaved just as Wilson had. A video of the players getting their heads shaved with #TaylorStrong and a team photo followed.

“What the team has done for me means so much,” Wilson said. “I’ve always felt like we were brothers. Coach Thorne preaches that. We are even closer now than when I played on the team.”

 “We all knew what Taylor was going through,” DSHS co-captain Seth Bridges said. “We didn’t want him to feel like he was going through it alone, so we shaved our heads. We wanted him to know we are here for him.”

Blessings and a trophy

Like her son, Shawn Wilson also tears up as she recalls the events of the past several months. Her son’s decision to pursue youth ministry/music instead of soccer stands out. She points out that her son started playing soccer at age 8 and was on club teams Bridges and several DSHS teammates before high school.

“Taylor always had sinus infections,” she said. “He was getting one after the other last spring. And we noticed the bump on his forehead that never went away. All of that was tied together.

“I always believe God has a hand in all things and that things happen for a reason. Taylor was a defender who used to head the ball a lot. He loved soccer. What would have happened, if he had continued to play? I now think his decision not to play soccer is also a blessing.”

The soccer team had two more surprises for Wilson on Sunday. Team members presented him with the first-place trophy they won at Pineville’s Rebel Cup over the weekend and a team T-shirt.

“When they told me what they wanted to do with the trophy, I was blown away,” Thorne said. “I told them, yes, absolutely.”

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Moving forward

Wilson returned to Houston for a post-operation appointment Wednesday. He is scheduled to have 64 staples removed from his head and will retain a permanent reminder of the surgery.

Doctors had to remove a portion of Wilson’s skull. A CT scan and 3-D printer provided a blueprint for the plate that was manufactured to replace the skull piece that was removed.

Despite all the obstacles, Wilson expects to be cleared to return to Denham Springs High for the spring semester. He attended most of DSHS soccer contests last year, offering prayers and encouragement. He plans to do the same this season.

“The night before surgery was my low point. I was scared. I was thinking about having part of my skull removed," Wilson said. "When I saw those pictures of the guys getting their heads shaved my attitude changed. That lifted me up. I went into surgery so confident. It was what I needed. I’m ready to be there for them.”

Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.