Uplifting Athletes was proud to honor Iowa State defensive end Mitchell Meyers as its ninth winner of the Rare Disease Champion Award as part of the Maxwell Football Club Gala.
The Rare Disease Champion Award is presented annually to a leader in the world of college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community.
In between a previous commitment to a speaking engagement for the Iowa Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Thursday night and being a groomsman in the wedding of his best friend in St. Louis Saturday afternoon, Meyers made it to the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City for the gala.
“It was such an honor to be on the stage with so many big-name players at every level of football,” said Meyers, who will graduate in May and already has a job with an international supply-chain company lined up.
Meyers was part of the impressive Maxwell awards program that included: former Pittsburgh running back James Conner, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, Alabama coach Nick Saban, former Duke Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Dallas Cowboys legend and NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.
During his acceptance speech, Meyers talked about how shortly after learning of his diagnosis with a rare disease he read former Boston College and current New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich’s book.
The trophy Meyers was presented is cast in the likeness of Herzlich.
“This was meant to be, I guess, with Mark Herzlich and the trophy. That’s so cool,” said Meyers, whose father, Scott, joined him for the awards gala. “His book served as a real inspiration to me.
“Thanks to everyone who voted for me … Iowa State fans are the best. This was a first-class experience for us. It’s my honor to be the Rare Disease Champion.”
Meyers endured a long and difficult 18-month journey with the rare disease Hodgkin’s lymphoma. An impact player in 2013 and 2014 for the Cyclones, Meyers lost his 2015 season when he was diagnosed in February of that year.
His roller coaster treatment for the rare disease included chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. Meyers was in the 10 percent of those diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who don’t respond to the first-line treatment.
It would have been easy to just return to school and finish off his degree without playing his final year of eligibility. But Meyers, who admits he had no idea how he would do, wanted to prove to himself he could do it.
With an almost completely new coaching staff in place, Meyers went out and earned a starting spot at defensive end. He played in every game, recorded 30 tackles, was an Academic All-Big 12 selection and was chosen as a team captain.
“This young man had this upbeat spirit about himself going through this, and it can put you in your place really fast,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “One of the best stories in college football.”