Kelee Ringo couldn't help but smile with his mother the moment he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only did Ringo's dreams of playing in the NFL become a reality, but the former University of Georgia standout thought of everything his family has been through leading up to the point he was selected in Round 4 of last month's draft.
Ringo got a much different phone call three years earlier that changed his life. His mother, Tralee Hale, was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer -- triple-negative ductal carcinoma -- that is affected by a rare gene mutation with people of color. She was 39.
Ringo was just nine weeks into his freshman year in 2020 when he got the call he dreaded.
"Before I left for school (that June), we could see she had some type of ball on her breast," Ringo told CBS Sports. "We were hoping it wasn't that."
Redshirting his freshman year at Georgia, Ringo decided to fight alongside his mother -- even if it was from across the country, as his mother was almost 1,900 miles away in Arizona. There was nothing Ringo could do physically to help her, except the one thing he could control.
"Me doing my job would definitely satisfy her mentally," Ringo said. "I wasn't letting her diagnosis get me down. She would want me to keep fighting."
As Ringo fought to get on the field, Hale was fighting to save her life. Just two years later, both Ringo and Hale won their fights.
Ringo had the game-sealing interception with 54 seconds left that he returned for a 79-yard touchdown to give Georgia its first national championship since 1980. Just a month later, Hale was cancer free.
Hale fought a battle that's difficult to win. After finishing chemotherapy in December of 2020, Hale had both breasts removed as pre-cancerous cells were found in her other breast and lymph nodes. She had to resume chemotherapy to destroy any other cancer cells that may have remained. Tissue biopsies showed small traces of cancer lingered in her blood, resulting in more chemotherapy and a massive physical toll on her body.
Five surgeries after the initial diagnosis, Hale won the fight of her life in February of 2022. Tests revealed no traces of cancer, but Ringo and Hale were far from finished with their fight.
Ringo and Hale launched The Ringo Family Foundation last year, with a mission to eradicate triple-negative breast cancer. The platform for Ringo is one of the most powerful in the country, an NFL player who plays in a city that is one of the most passionate fan bases in the league -- while also being in one of the biggest media markets in the country.
If women are encouraged to undergo cancer screenings, that victory is bigger for Ringo than any accomplishment on the football field.
"This disease -- it deteriorates your body a lot," Ringo said. "Mentally, going through chemo is a real poison. You just have to continue to fight with that person because of what they're going through.
"I want to continue to be an advocate for women's health overall because of what I saw my mother go through."
The moment Ringo received the second life-changing phone call, the sunglasses hid the full ride of emotion he went through over the past couple years. There was Rice, hugging him as he smiled in relief.
There was uncertainty Rice would ever see this day -- or if Ringo would even have that moment.
"I was just in a big blur of emotion for how much time and effort we put into this and how hard we worked. And how we were able to accomplish our goals together," Ringo said. "It was a big sigh of relief, but now it's time to finish the story and I'm motivated to do so for her."