Robert Rodriguez is finding strength as he battles cancer in hopes of returning to the football field.

The teen started his junior year at Farmersville High School in Collin County. It will be Rodriguez’s first full year after having to leave midway through his freshman year.

“I’m a little nervous. I’m also very excited,” Rodriguez told CBS DFW.

He was diagnosed with acute leukemia in 2020, and cancer derailed his dreams of playing high school football. Rodriguez spent most of his time in the hospital instead of on the field.

“There’s a lot of kids who have been through worse,” said Rodriguez. “I’m grateful for the situation because I could’ve had it a lot worse.”

With his football dreams on hold, Rodriguez said he carried a lot of self-doubt and anger, but he soon realized he could still be “Robert, without being a student-athlete.”

Rodriguez spends some of his spare time lifting weights, something he enjoys doing so much that the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas gifted him several pieces of fitness equipment. When Titan Fitness heard about the gift, the company decided to send Rodriguez a personalized barbell with his name on the end of the bar.

“We know he has dealt with a lot mentally and physically,” Michelle Simkin, a Titan Fitness spokesperson, told CBS DFW. “He’s determined to achieve his goals and overcome his obstacles, and that’s what Titan stands for as well.”

Rodriguez’s determination is inspiring to all who come in contact with him.

“He’s allowing himself to grow from it and allowing himself to take away the positive things instead of dwelling on the negative,” said Sara Roelke, a communications manager for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas.

The high school junior is currently in remission, though he still takes chemotherapy medication.

Every year in the United States, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is diagnosed in roughly 2,400 children and teenagers under the age of 20. Survival rates for childhood cases in first remission are now nearing 90%, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization.

“Cancer really challenged me, and now it’s my turn to challenge cancer back,” said Rodriguez.