2014 Rare Disease Champion Finalist Chuck Priore


Each of the five finalists for the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award will have their story featured here. In order to vote for the next Rare Disease Champion, please visit our voting page here. The winner will be announced on February 1st.

Chuck Priore

CHUCK PRIORE MUGUniversity: Stony Brook University

Vitals: Has been a college football coach for three decades, 14 of those as a head coach including eight at Stony Brook.

Quick Hits: During his 14 years as a head coach, Priore has compiled a 91-49 record overall. In eight years at Stony Brook he developed the Seawolves into an FCS power by winning 52 of his 92 games including 19 victories in 2011 and 2012 combined…Was an offensive coordinator and strength coach at Union and University of Pennsylvania before getting his first job as a head coach at Trinity in 2000.

Chuck’s Story: When a former college football teammate asks for a favor that doesn’t require more than saying yes, sometimes the result of that simple answer can snowball into something special.

What happens when that favor turns into a strong relationship that has lasted five years and is still going strong is how lives get changed and impacted.

Stony Brook head football coach Chuck Priore has a special co-captain for his successful Seawolves FCS program in 14-year-old West Islip, New York resident Joe Feminella.

Prior’s former college football teammate at Albany, Dennis Murphy, introduced the Seawolves to Feminella in 2009 through Friends of Jaclyn – an organization that aims to improve the life of children battling pediatric brain tumors.

Feminella was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of pediatric brain cancer with a survival rate in the teens, at the age of 5.

After surgery and three years of radiation “Joe” – as he’s know around the Stony Brook football program – was introduced to the Priore and the Seawolves football program.

His development was behind and understandably after what he had endured medically, Joe was shy and lacked confidence.

“First and foremost he comes from a terrific family. They were really excited about this opportunity,” Priore said. “His family has seen how this situation at Stony Brook has helped him mature and gain confidence in himself.

STONYBROOK2

“And he’s done the same thing for us. He shows us how hard life can be, but yet you can still live a full life.”

So instead of this being a short-term commitment, it has developed into a special lasting relationship that benefits all parties involved.

Players talk about Joe being the “glue” that holds the team together, and a “good luck” charm. But they also see the value of how this relationship has not only changed Joe, but it’s affected them as well.

The players embrace what Priore started five years ago. But along the way they have taken part ownership of this unique football relationship.

“I’ve seen some players over the years who were very protective of who they are. They weren’t the type of kids who reach out,” Priore said. “But over the years their personalities change with Joey. They’ve had their own struggles and can identify with Joey and his struggles.

“They figure if he can be this positive after all he’s been through, why can’t I do the same thing?”

Joey isn’t just a young man whose stared down an aggressive rare disease and came out on the other side. Prior calls him a “vital part of the Seawolves’ program.”

He leads the team out of the tunnel before games. He wears a No. 10 jersey on the sidelines, and has plenty of Seawolves gear. Players say he takes losing harder than they do sometimes.

“Having Joe around, on a personal level, has taught me the value of a lack of importance of winning and losing on Saturday,” Priore said. “I remember celebrating with a phone call from his mom about him getting his 5-year clearance for being cancer free.

“As Joey fought through his battle, and all he went through, in my mind he’s a competitor. And have made competing a big part of our program.”

Vote for the 2014 Rare Disease Champion today!

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