Meet the five inspiring leaders on the 2020 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team


Uplifting Athletes is pleased to announce the 2020 Rare Disease Champion Team.

For more than a dozen years, Uplifting Athletes has celebrated leaders in college football that have made a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community through its Rare Disease Champion initiative.

The five members of the 2020 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion team are Syracuse punter Nolan Cooney, Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper, Stanford head coach David Shaw, Austin Peay defensive lineman Josephus Smith and Northwestern defensive lineman Joe Spivak. 

Uplifting Athletes couldn’t be more proud to share these inspiring rare disease stories.

“We have been moved by the way each member of the 2020 Rare Disease Champion Team has used their platform to inspire, serve and support the Rare Disease Community,” Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long said. “Our tradition of honoring the team at in-person events is not plausible during these times, but we feel it is our duty and honor to recognize, celebrate and share their inspiring accomplishments and stories.”

Each member of the 2020 Rare Disease Champion Team will be honored and celebrated during the first two weeks of Rare Disease Awareness Month in February 2021.

The Rare Disease Champion Team is an Uplifting Athletes awareness initiative that is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA). Nominees for the award were solicited from any NCAA FBS, FCS, Division II or Division III institution or college football program nationwide.

Kent State wide receiver Antwan Dixon, Davidson linebacker George Hatalowich, Syracuse offensive lineman Sam Heckel, Penn student assistant Anthony Lotti and Kentucky linebacker Josh Paschal comprised the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team.

Past Rare Disease Champion winners consist of seven FBS players including USC long snapper Jake Olson (2016), UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (2018) and Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (2015), one FCS player, a Division III quarterback, two FBS assistant coach and an administrator from AFCA. 

The Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team is a member of the National College Football Awards Association. The NCFAA encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935.

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