ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — From working on their craft on the football field as members of the Oklahoma Sooners' 2020 recruiting class to playing video games and hanging out regularly, wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. and offensive lineman Ben Tawwater formed a close friendship in Norman, Oklahoma that has only become stronger over the years.
While their football careers have taken them different directions — Mims emerged as a top NFL prospect and has shined in his rookie season with the Broncos, while Tawwater turned his opportunity as a walk-on into a coaching role for the Sooners — their frequent conversations and support for each other has been constant.
When Mims had the option to choose a cause to support for his first year in the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats program, he immediately thought to honor his good friend and a cause that has changed both of their lives. Shortly after Mims declared for the NFL Draft, Tawwater was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Mims said Tawwater has approached his most difficult challenge yet with the tenacity and work ethic that defined his football career.
"He's been a huge inspiration [to me]," Mims said. "You talk about [being a] college walk-on, those dudes go in every day working their tails off and he was a coach. He was up there [at] three o'clock every morning. So just looking at him grind and his tenacity throughout all of it [was inspiring], and then even now with the cancer. He has addressed it the same way — keep fighting and keep going."
Mims said the opportunity to honor Tawwater "means the world" to him, and he has kept the cleats as a special surprise for Tawwater. The speedy wide receiver and returner will wear purple-and-white cleats with Tawwater's name and the Testicular Cancer Society insignia on them during the Broncos' game on Sunday against the Houston Texans.
"He's not a big 'let you know how he's doing' guy," Mims said. "I don't want to ask all the time, but just seeing him, seeing his face, it's always good. [I wanted] just to let him know that he has a whole bunch of people rooting for him."
Tawwater's fight against testicular cancer has also changed Mims' perspective on the condition, and Mims hopes wearing the cleats can make an impact for those watching the game.
"It's going to be a huge difference [to wear the cleats in a game], just in terms of donations and awareness of it," Mims said. "It's a common cancer and a lot of guys can get it, so just bringing awareness to it and then also just hearing about how it can affect people around you [is important]. You don't know how it will affect you until it affects you."
Even with Mims' busy NFL schedule, the two former teammates stay in frequent contact.
Mims said he's looking forward to the chance to represent Tawwater and his battle and repay his friend for his years of support and companionship.
"He inspires me, and I love him to death," Mims said. "He's always been there for me. … We'd hang out and talk about a whole bunch of stuff. That's my guy, and I just wanted to represent him the right way."