2014 Rare Disease Champion Finalist Trevor Reilly

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.

 Trevor Reilly

ASU 20 Utah 19University: University of Utah

Vitals: 6-5, 255-pound linebacker/defensive end

Quick Hits: A one-time walk-on, Reilly finished as a three-year starter at end and linebacker. … Was an All-Pac 12 selection after posting 100 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries in 2013. He led a Utah defense that ranked first in the nation in sacks in all those categories… Finished his career at Utah with 235 tackles, including 37 for a loss. … Ranked as one of the top five defensive ends in the upcoming NFL Draft, Reilly’s stock is on the rise and he’s projected as a potential second-round pick.

Trevor’s Story: Trevor Reilly is a throwback of sorts on the football field. He plays any position asked by the defensive coaching staff, he loves his university and was the Utes’ go-to guy for the last two years when it came to representing the team.

In 2012 the combination defensive end/outside linebacker tore his ACL in the spring. For most that would mean season over. Not Reilly, though. He just put on a brace and played his way through the pain his entire junior year.

With his stock rising as not only an elite Pac-12 player, but also as a potential NFL prospect, Reilly started preparing for his senior season.

Suddenly, during the offseason, football became a low priority for Reilly. His perspective as an elite athlete changed in an instant when Reilly and his wife Jessica found out their 11-month old daughter Shayn had kidney cancer.

“I’ve known him for 10 years,” Jessica Reilly said. “The one time I’ve seen him cry was when Shayn got diagnosed with cancer.”

Doctors removed a tumor from her kidney that Reilly describes as “the size of my fist.” Every Friday for nearly 4 months the couple took Shayn to the hospital for chemotherapy.

Utah 21 Oregon 44“I go to the hospital, then I got to practice. It was hard not to think about it,” Reilly said. “Every day it was on my mind.”

Even though the doctors felt strongly about the surgery, it was still a rugged journey for a family to endure those weekly treatments – especially in a pediatric patient who couldn’t speak.

“It made me appreciate my family more,” Reilly said. “But football, too. To be able to get away from it and focus on that for a while and not focus on the serious things helped.”

Reilly, who mentors young men through his church and did a Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints missions trip to Sweden before coming to Utah, had a monster senior season buoyed by his new-found perspective and being 100 percent healthy.

He led Utah in tackles, tackles for a loss and sacks and was an easy first-team All-Pac 12 selection.

“He’s a fighter and that carries over to his kids and his wife,” Utah defensive coordinator Kilane Sitake said. “He infects everybody he knows with that mentality of fighting through everything and overcoming adversity.”

Playing through an torn ACL for an entire season was easy compared to watching your 1-year-old daughter battle cancer.

And prior to his final home game, Reilly let everyone know who the real fighter was in his family when he entered the field with Shayn on his shoulders.

“In reality when you look at that, and look at the problems we complain about in sports, it’s nothing,” Reilly said. “It literally is nothing.”

Vote for the 2014 Rare Disease Champion Today!

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