This time a year ago Nate Solder was getting his standard physical exam at the start of the Patriots offseason program. The former first-round pick and Tom Brady's blindside protector told the medical staff that he "felt something" around his left testicle.
It was soon discovered that Solder had testicular cancer and the testicle was removed.
"I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise," Solder told ESPN Boston this week. "You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, 'I'm not going to freak out about this.' Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn't have checked it, saying, 'Oh, it's just in my head, I'm going to be fine.'"
Returning to full health, Solder was more than fine on the field last fall. He started 19 games at left tackle to help the Patriots secure their first Super Bowl ring in more than a decade.
A year later he's once aging embarking on the New England offseason program. He's a 27-year-old left tackle playing on his rookie contract fifth-year option worth about $7.5 million. He'll pick up his first Super Bowl ring this June and playing one of the premier positions in the NFL is on the cusp of a huge contract in the very near future.
A man of few words, Solder was apparently reluctant to share his story. But April is National Testicular Cancer Awareness month and he wants to make sure that men everywhere realize that they, like all men, are at risk.
"I was completely healthy, I'm a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody," Solder told ESPN Boston. "Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that's who it's really targeted toward."