The Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award, part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), is given annually to a leader in college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community.
We afforded each finalist for the 11th Rare Disease Champion Award the opportunity to be featured in our Beyond The Finalist series.
Name: Joshua Eargle
University: Austin Peay State University
Position: Offensive Coordinator
What about your journey do you always make sure to share when telling your story?
Eargle: My daughter Landrey is in a fight, every single day…a fight to live, a fight to overcome the illness that’s been handed to her in life. What I’ve learned is that Landrey and all of us are not alone. She might be the only one diagnosed in the U.S. with her condition but she isn’t alone. You might not be physically ill or have a sick child, but all of us have adversity in our lives. How do you respond to your circumstances in that battle? How do you respond when you can’t control the outcome? Each of us has a choice…to fight and push through with joy or let the unfair circumstances overcome us. Every day, when I kneel by her bedside, when she wakes up, my little Landrey wakes up with a smile on her face. She might feel very sick or just have had one of her many seizures she has in a day, but she chooses to smile. She’s taught me to choose joy today.
Can you tell us your ‘welcome to college football (either as a player or coach) moment’?
Eargle: It’s hard to pinpoint a single moment. I played for 10 years and now coached for 16. For me, it’s been on the coaching side. It’s realizing on a deep level that this game has the ability to allow you to become like a family to the young men I coach. It’s a term thrown around a lot, but truly making personal commitments to be there and serve when they need you. Throughout my career as a coach, I’ve had the unfortunate task of having a parent call me to go get their son and to tell them that the other parent has unexpectedly passed away. It’s happened three times. It puts everything into perspective in one phone call. It takes my breath away. Life is precious. My daughter is a daily reminder of that. Building relationships with these young men is profoundly important as you might be in their life during some of the toughest moments, but also some of the best as they unite with other brothers on the football field and challenge themselves to do something they couldn’t do alone.
What is the one piece of advice or encouragement that’s stuck with you over time? Who gave it to you and what is it?
Eargle: One thing I’ve held on to is a verse from the Bible in Jeremiah 29:10 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Like many guys growing up now, I grew up without a father. My grandmother instilled this verse in me. I’ve come to learn over time that my Heavenly Father has purpose and a plan for my life. He has planned my steps. There’s a lot of peace and hope when you let that sink in.
What is your favorite movie and why?
Eargle: Braveheart. I’m not sure why anyone would name anything else?
If you could have lunch with any one person (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
Eargle: Tom Landry for sure. My entire life I’ve looked up to him. I read a book on him a while back and I believe he lived his life with character. At the end of the day, anyone can turn football programs around, anyone can find a way to win, but what stands the test of time is HOW you win and whose lives you’ve impacted on the journey.
Your favorite aspect of being a part of college football?
Eargle: The opportunity to push young men who might not believe in themselves, to maximize every ounce of who they are, discipline themselves, unite with someone they didn’t know before to accomplish something no one ever believed they could. That gets me FIRED UP!
Last few songs you downloaded?
Eargle: You got me there….I don’t know if I’ve download anything recently. I do Spotify channels. Sometimes it’s encouraging stuff and sometimes I switch to some red dirt Texas country. I was born and raised in Texas.
What would winning the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award mean to you?
Eargle: Last spring is a day I will never forget. The day doctors at Vanderbilt told my wife and I, there’s officially no cure for the condition my daughter has. Then the physician talked about the future of medicine …where we could be one day as country, but it would take awareness and eventual funding. Winning this award isn’t about me. This award could unlock the awareness and eventual funding we would need to study her condition. I would never want any parent or child to go through what we’ve endured. Winning this could be one step closer to see her and the children yet to be diagnosed live healthier lives.