The story of Lamar Dawson's signing day saga begins on Thanksgiving weekend when he woke up from an afternoon nap, his pillow stained with blood.

"What is that?" his father asked.

"I don't know," Lamar answered.

His father inspected his bloodied throat, and the next morning they drove to an immediate care center, where Lamar was told he had strep throat.

Seeing no improvement in his condition over the next couple of days, Lamar, a three-star cornerback prospect in Syracuse's 2014 recruiting class, met with his family doctor and blood samples were taken. The results were so alarming he checked into the emergency room at the nearby University of Chicago Medical Center. Lamar's platelet count was around 20,000, at least 10 times less than an average person, leading doctors to believe he was suffering from Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets.

Over the next week his white blood cell and red blood cell counts dropped as well, forcing Lamar back into a hospital bed where, four days before Christmas, he sent out a tweet asking for prayers while being tested for leukemia.

"That," he said, "was the scariest moment ever."

The wait lasted 30 minutes after doctors, still searching for a correct diagnosis, performed a bone marrow biopsy, numbing him up before drilling two large needles into his back. Tests for cancer came back negative. So did a test for HIV. Almost a month after waking up hours before a Turkey Bowl football game with friends with a bloody pillow, Lamar finally heard the words.

He had aplastic anemia, a non-contagious but life-threatening disease in which bone marrow fails to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Lamar feared the worst.

"It's your life on the line," he said, sitting on his couch wearing a quarter-zip and Miami Heat knit hat. "I wasn't worried about football that much."

Lamar said he has been in school three days since Thanksgiving break, including a brief time Wednesday morning when he signed his national letter intent to Syracuse. He is taking immunosuppressive therapy to treat the disease after a bone marrow match test with his 25-year-old brother, Theo, came back negative. Lamar orally takes more than 15 tablets a day — 10 when he wakes up in the morning — including two pills of cyclosporine every 12 hours. The medicine has left Lamar's leg muscles achy, causing pain when he walks. He stretches out his arm in front of his chest and extends his fingers, which shake uncontrollably while holding his iPhone. He has his homework emailed to him. He has not run or worked out in months, and he probably won't be able to until the end of March at the earliest, three months after he started the medication and three months before the therapy runs its course. He lost more than 10 pounds and is now down to 169. This is the alternative to death.

Choosing to wait until shortly after the diagnosis to inform the coaching staff of his health issues, Lamar and the staff will meet in May to make a final decision on whether to defer enrollment until January.

"The plan is January just because I'll have a chance to get healthy and not worry about trying to hurry up and work out and get back," said Lamar, who could enroll at a local college here as a part-time student and take prerequisite courses to get a jumpstart academically before joining Syracuse.

"That makes sense to me. It seems like the most logical thing to do. I don't feel like I'm going to be ready, just how slow this is going. I feel like January I can just take my time and be ready."