When Gabriel Aljalian told the Make-A-Wish foundation he wanted to play football with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he didn't know how the day would go. But having battled the toughest of opponents, Gabriel was more than ready to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I felt surprised and good,” recalls Gabriel, who lives with his parents and younger sister, in Watertown, Massachusetts. “He was very tall, and picked me to be the center to throw him the football. He gave me high-fives and a hug. He also handed me the football we were playing with and said, ‘Here, keep it.’”

“‘Treatment left him tired and weak,’ she says. ‘Football was a way for him to be a ‘normal’ boy.’”

“Gronk was very tall, too,” adds the resilient seven-year-old. “And Brady made Coach Belichick do push-ups, which was so funny.”

Refusing to punt

Diagnosed with leukemia in November 2012 at the age of three, Gabriel stayed strong throughout his ordeal, enduring years of oral, IV and spinal chemotherapy and treatments. Meeting his idol last fall gave him the chance to just be a kid.

“It was really, really, very, very cool,” says Gabriel, who makes signs to decorate the family's living room during football season, and often pretends to be the superstar signal caller. “I throw my football everywhere, and I like to celebrate touchdowns.”

More than just a game

Mom Natasha says that, during his darkest hours, her son always clutched a pigskin for support.

PATRIOTIC: With the Patriots, Aljalian was cool as can be, exuding confidence and taking full advantage of his dream of playing on the field with his heroes and being one of the guys.

“Treatment left him tired and weak,” she says. “Football was a way for him to be a ‘normal’ boy. When his wish was granted, it was incredible. He was smiling, confident and strong—a totally different child. Other than his initial surprise when he saw Tom Brady standing right in front of him, he had no reservations playing with Brady, Gronk or the other Patriots players who came down to the field.

"As his parents, we didn’t know what to expect, but Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island and the Patriots organization really made our little boy’s dream come true.”

Looking to the future

Natasha says her son is doing well, as he prepares to enter second grade. The new school year also means the official start of NFL action, and Gabriel is confident his team will play in Super Bowl 51.

“They will win,” he predicts. “At least, I hope.”