Leadership Development Conference ’18 featured a little bit of everything for nearly 40 college football student-athletes


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For nearly a decade, Uplifting Athletes has been bringing college football student-athletes leaders together for a weekend of training and development.

Last week nearly 40 student-athletes traveled to Atlanta for the 2018 Leadership Development Conference hosted by Uplifting Athletes and put together by Director of Chapter Development Brett Brackett.

“The 2018 Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference was a tremendous success. I left the conference energized by the focus and determination in this group of student-athletes,” Brackett said. “Despite their hectic lives they took time to develop leadership and transferable skills while learning how they can work with Uplifting Athletes to leverage their platform to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.”

Following a meet-and-greet dinner Friday night, the conference kicked off Saturday with a full day of programming Saturday that was driven by Uplifting Athletes four pillars – Uplifting Leaders, Uplifting Experiences, Rare Disease Awareness and Rare Disease Research.

One of the many highlights from the student-athlete’s perspective was the discussion with the panel of former student-athlete who are now professionals.

Eight former college student-athletes from the Atlanta area took on all questions about transitioning from college into the professional world.

“The best part of the weekend was having the former student-athlete panel. Being a student-athlete is a privilege and requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. But eventually football will end. We all need a plan of action when that happens,” Syracuse Chapter leader Nolan Cooney said. “Having the former athletes speak to us, was an incredible opportunity to hear from players that are now having incredible success in the corporate world.

“There was no sugar coating the conversation, it was powerful, funny and engaging. Having athletes from various schools, with totally different lives created a connection with everybody in the room.”

Uplifting Athletes Director of Strategic Development Rob Long is a former rare disease patient and college football player. Sharing his story allowed the student-athletes to develop a more personal connection to the cause prior to a visit to the Scottish Rite Hospital for an afternoon of visiting with rare disease patients.

Sunday began with a session on fundraising followed by a video review of Uplifting Athletes 2017.

The conference closed with Beth Nguyen, a NORD Rare Impact Award Honoree, sharing her story. Nguyen battles the rare disease Syringomyelia and is a mother, nurse, wife, patient advocate and leader.

A special thank you to all our supporters who made this conference possible. These young men are making a difference in the rare disease community with your help.

We asked a few of the student-athletes to provide us with some feedback, and what we received was not only helpful to us going forward, but it moved us.

So we are going to share the exact words of two attendees, Cooney and Trey Klock from Northwestern, about what Leadership Development Conference ’18 meant to them.

Uplifting Athletes: In your own words sum up your experience at the Leadership Development Conference and share something that moved or impacted you?

Cooney: This year’s Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference was an incredible opportunity to further my knowledge on what Uplifting Athletes does to not only impact the lives of rare disease patients but as well for the student-athletes. The conference was a great experience to meet and interact with athletes from other universities. Regardless of what school you attend, everybody was sharing very similar stories of their experiences as football players and as leaders of Uplifting Athletes. It is really special to be able to take our on-field competitiveness out of the equation and developed strong relationships with athletes that we play every fall. Uplifting Athletes is continuously growing and adding new chapters. With the new schools at the conference, it created a completely new element to my thinking and ideas. Some of the new chapters were brainstorming ideas that seemed unconventional to the traditional model, but I think that we can use in the future. Atlanta was a great city to host it in. It was really nice to get some heat, after a few weeks in the cold north. I saw a big difference in the conference from the past year in Philadelphia to this year in Atlanta. In Philadelphia, I was fairly new to Uplifting Athletes and I don’t know if I had the confidence to feel that I could make an impact. This year, I felt confident and collaborative. I very much enjoyed the structure of the conference this year. Moving around to the different rooms and touching on the various areas that Uplifting Athletes covers. Then going to the hospital was an experience that you rarely get to have. Typically you raise money and send it in without knowing much about where it is going. By going to the hospital, you are able to see directly where all of our efforts are going to go by interacting with children that are battling a rare disease.

Klock: It was an honor to represent Northwestern football with my teammate Peter Snodgrass at the annual Leadership Development Conference. I made a lot of new friends and enjoyed hearing about the efforts of the new chapters such as Alabama, Western Michigan, Davidson, Lehigh, and others. This was my third Leadership Development Conference and I continued to learn a lot about what we can do as student-athletes to raise awareness and money to fight rare diseases. I enjoyed meeting Brett Brackett and talking more with Scott (Shirley), Rob, and Andy (Shay). They are all exceptional men that have done some amazing things with Uplifting Athletes. I especially enjoyed visiting the children’s hospital and meeting a lot of young people that are facing some adversity right now. It made me realize how lucky I am to be able to play the great game of football. We also had the opportunity to hear from Beth Nguyen, a 2017 NORD Rare Impact Award Honoree. She is a mother, wife, nurse, patient, and advocate for the rare disease community. In 2012, Beth was given the diagnosis of Syringomyelia and she later created a task force (WSCTF) to increase understanding of the disease across all medical disciplines and to improve direct patient care. She also started a patient registry to drive research, has organized support groups, and developed of the first-ever advocacy models of care for both Syringomyelia and Chiari Malformation. Everyone was intrigued by her message and very respectful of her mission. As I reflect on the weekend, I am so thankful for every chance I get to wake up and make an impact on the world.

Uplifting Athletes: What was your favorite part or aspect of the weekend and explain why?

Cooney: The best part of the weekend was having the former athlete panel. Being a student-athlete is a privilege and requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. But eventually football will end, we all need a plan of action when that happens. Having the former athletes speak to us, was an incredible opportunity to hear from players that are now having incredible success in the corporate world. There was no sugar coating the conversation, it was powerful, funny and engaging. Having athletes from various schools, with totally different lives created a connection with everybody in the room. Everybody in the room has incredible competitiveness, and the former athletes are giving us the tools to harness that and use it on and off the field. Uplifting Athletes encourages athletes to make a difference in the community, use the power of sport to tackle rare diseases. But also use the power of sport in all different areas. To paraphrase something that was said that resonated with me was, after you graduate your identity as an athlete diminishes. Utilize being a student-athlete, to create opportunities and relationships that you’ll use your entire life. Another piece that stuck with me is when the panel was asked how much being an athlete translates to the working work. They responded with, look at the job description, teamwork, time management, dedication, ability to listen. Every one of these qualities is developed being an athlete. As the weekend progressed, I was constantly thinking about tasks and ideas I was ready to tackle. It re-energizes my enthusiasm to grow our chapter and make a difference.

Klock: Besides visiting the children’s hospital, my favorite part of the weekend was the former student-athlete Q&A session. We had the opportunity to hear from a player panel of former college student-athletes living in the Atlanta area. We asked a lot of questions about making the transition from college into the professional world. They were all very successful people and I learned a lot from it. The focus of the weekend was to learn more about the fight against rare diseases and develop a goal for our individual chapters, but I also really enjoyed learning about the “Uplifting Leaders” part, which consisted of tools and advice to prepare for life after football.

 

Annual Leadership Development Conference welcomes 36 college football student-athletes to Atlanta


LDC18 GRAPHICFor the ninth consecutive year, we will gather college football student-athletes for three days of education, training and networking during the 2018 Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference.

This year 36 current football players from 18 universities across the country will travel to Atlanta on Friday, January 26 to kick off a busy weekend of engaging work sessions, networking and relationship building.

“We are excited to provide the student-athletes with an opportunity to network with other bright minded leaders in college football,” Uplifting Athletes Director of Chapter Development Brett Brackett said. “Our goal is to grow their personal skill set and help them learn more about how to leverage their position as student-athletes to impact the rare disease community through Uplifting Athletes.”

Among the 18 schools that will be represented in Atlanta, six of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Defending National Champion Alabama, Minnesota, Temple, Davidson, Lehigh and Western Michigan have student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Illinois, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton and Stony Brook will also be in attendance.

The 2018 Leadership Development Conference will kick off with a team meal Friday night prior to a full weekend agenda.

The conference content is developed and driven by the Uplifting Athletes staff, but will also feature a panel of former student-athletes answering questions about the transition to the professional world.

Included in the workshop sessions on Saturday and Sunday are an overview of Uplifting Athletes, Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive event planning and transferable life skills development.

The highlight of Saturday will be an Uplifting Experience for the student-athletes featuring a visit to the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital to interact with rare disease patients.

We are very excited to bring this group together to learn from each other, to strategize together and to foster the sense of teamwork that inspires us all.

 

Former Penn State Chapter leader and offensive lineman Adam Gress passes away


ADAM GRESSFormer Penn State offensive lineman Adam Gress passed away Thursday.

The details surrounding his death are still emerging, but according to several reports Gress never recovered from a fall.

In addition to being a favorite among his teammates, Gress also served in a leadership role for the Penn State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes for his final two seasons.

“Adam will be missed but his legacy will live strong through the lives he impacted,” said Uplifting Athletes Chapter Manager Brett Brackett, who knew Gress as a teammate and friend.

“He never had bad intentions towards anyone or anything. Adam was a good-hearted guy that loved to make people laugh, worked hard and earned the respect of his teammates. I was the chapter president when Adam first became involved with Uplifting Athletes. He inspired all of us through his enthusiasm and willingness to give his time to benefit others.”

Gress, who was 26, graduated from Penn State with a degree in telecommunications and journalism before giving the NFL a shot in 2014 with the New York Giants.

A native of Pittsburgh, Gress was scheduled to marry his longtime girlfriend Angela Torchia this summer. He was working as a construction site manager in the Pittsburgh area at the time of his death.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Gress family.

 

 

 

 

2017 Beyond The Trophy: Meet Penn State Chapter Co-President and QB Trace McSorley


TRACE MCSORLEY

Each week during the college football season we will feature a player who is an officer for an Uplifting Athletes Chapter for our Beyond the Trophy series.

 Name: Trace McSorley

College: Penn State University

Height, weight, class, position: 6-0, 195-pound junior quarterback

High School: Briar Woods HS, Ashburn, Va.

About McSorley: Came to Penn State after winning three state championships in Virginia as a four-year starter. The Nittany Lions promised him a shot to play quarterback. … In his second year as a starter after guiding PSU to Big Ten Championship in 2016 as a redshirt sophomore. Threw for a school single-season record 3,614 yards in his first year as a starter. … Co-President of the Penn State Chapter. … Rated as one of the Top 20 quarterbacks in the country in passer rating, touchdown passes and passing yards.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

McSorley: Being up on the podium celebrating the Big Ten Championship with my teammates and then continuing the celebration into the locker room.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you? McSorley: My parents always preached to me that football was a great platform to be able to do something lasting in life and once I heard about uplifting athletes and the impact it makes on the rare disease community, it was a no brainer to get involved.  Just meeting different guys who share the want to help in the community from around the country and being able to form lasting relationships with some of them has been amazing.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

McSorley: Running into the stadium with the crowd going crazy and fireworks being shot off from above.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

McSorley: Drew Brees, similar play style and also similar stature as far as him beating the stigma of being “too short”

If you could have lunch with any one person (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

McSorley: Sean Taylor, was my favorite player growing up and still one of my all time favorites.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

McSorley: That’s tough, I’d probably say Iowa even though it was incredibly hard to play there, and the atmosphere is just unreal.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football or big goals for the future?

McSorley: To have a job that I love and am passionate about.

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What is your perfect pizza?

McSorley: Pepperoni and sausage

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

McSorley: The whole Future and Young Thug album “Super Slimey”

Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus?

McSorley: Taylor Swift

 If you could spend the day with any celebrity, who would it be?

McSorley: Lebron James

What was the last movie you went to the theater and saw?

McSorley: American Made

In the Mountains or on a Beach?

McSorley: Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nebraska Chapter President and linebacker Chris Weber a finalist for William V. Campbell Trophy


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Nebraska senior linebacker Chris Weber has been named one of 13 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. Presented by the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame, the Campbell Trophy recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation.

A former walk-on and captain of the Huskers, Weber is also the President of the Nebraska Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and has been supporting the rare disease community most of his college career.

“It was a pleasure to get to know Chris very early in his career when he attended our Leadership Conference in 2014. He’s been a strong voice in college football for the rare disease community,” Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Scott Shirley said. “Being chosen as a finalist for the Campbell Trophy requires you to be a great football player, great student and most importantly a great person and leader. Congratulations to Chris and his family.”

A candidate for the Campbell Trophy must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, possess a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Weber, who is seeking to become Nebraska’s third winner of the award, was chosen as one of the finalists from among the 181 individuals nominated as semifinalists.

The 6-3, 240-pound Weber has started all eight games at linebacker this season and leads Nebraska in tackles (66), tackles for loss (six) and pass breakups (five). 

He sports a 3.96 GPA and has already been accepted to medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He’s a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District VII selection and a three-time Distinguished Big Ten Scholar.

Weber led the Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race earlier this year, which raised more than $35,000 and he’s been named to the Brook Berringer and Tom Osborne Citizenship teams each of the past four years.

The 13 finalists will each receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments. The finalists will travel to New York City for the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 5, where their accomplishments will be highlighted.

At the event, one member of the class will be declared the winner of the 28th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000. The event, which will take place at the New York Hilton Midtown, will be live streamed on ESPN3, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

2017 Beyond The Trophy: Meet Penn State Chapter Co-President and LB Jason Cabinda


JASON CABINDAEach week during the college football season we will feature a player who is an officer for an Uplifting Athletes Chapter for our Beyond the Trophy series.

 Name: Jason Cabinda

College: Penn State University

Height, weight, class, position: 6-1, 234-pound senior linebacker

High School: Hunterdon Central HS, Flemington, NJ

About Cabinda: Jason has played a major role in the emergence of the Nittany Lions as a Big Ten and national college football power. … As a true freshmen in 2014 he appeared in nine games and made his first start against Illinois. He’s been a starter at linebacker since his sophomore season and recently made his 30th start. … He is co-President of the Penn State Chapter and attended the 2017 Leadership Conference. … He’s been on the All-Big Ten team each of the past two seasons, and earlier this year was the Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week after his 13-tackle effort against Michigan. … Jason is one several postseason award watch lists for 2017.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

Cabinda: My most memorable experience as a football player would have to be last years Whiteout in which we were able to beat Ohio State who at the time was the No. 2 team in the nation getting that upset and watching the crowd storm the field was great.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

Cabinda: I had first heard about it after a team meeting and just thought that it was simply another way I could get involved on campus and in the community and use my influence in a good way. It has taught me just how fortunate we are each day and to know that you should never take your health for granted.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

Cabinda: Just seeing how crazy the fans are in the stadium and feeding off that energy when we first run out that gate is the best. Taking the time to really just breathe and take it all in is always awesome.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Cabinda: My favorite NFL player would probably be Gerald Hodges just because I love the way he plays downhill and I hope to be able to be as a good as he is one day.

If you could have lunch with any one person (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

Cabinda: It would be Lebron James just because he’s my favorite athlete and he’s someone whose brain I would love to pick apart.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

Cabinda: It would probably have to be playing in the Iowa stadium just because of how hostile of an environment it was it’s a great feeling to get a win there.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football or big goals for the future?

Cabinda: Definitely would have to be going into sports broadcasting which is something I have grown an admiration for since being in college and definitely something I would really like to pursue.

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What is your perfect pizza?

Cabinda: Barbecue chicken pizza with bacon on it

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Cabinda: Word of Mouth –Shotta Spence; No cap –Future and Young thug; Pick it up- Famous Dex and A$AP Rocky

Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus?

Cabinda: Neither

 If you could spend the day with any celebrity, who would it be?

Cabinda: Leonardo Dicaprio

What was the last movie you went to the theater and saw?

Cabinda: All eyez on me

In the Mountains or on a Beach?

Cabinda: Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Beyond The Trophy: Meet Syracuse QB Zack Mahoney


MAHONEY 1Each week during the college football season we will feature a player who is an officer for an Uplifting Athletes Chapter for our Beyond the Trophy series.

 Name: Zack Mahoney

College: Syracuse University

Height, weight, class, position: 6-2, 217-pound senior quarterback

High School: Lyons Township in LaGrange Park, Illinois

About Mahoney: After one year playing at a junior college, Mahoney enrolled at Syracuse as a walk-on in January 2015. … Has appeared in 18 career game with seven starts and has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards with 15 touchdowns. … Three of his seven career starts are against Top 25 teams. … Was given a scholarship prior to 2016 season. … Shares the school record for touchdown passes in a single game with five. … President of the Syracuse Chapter and a current member of SAAC.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

Mahoney: My most memorable experience was receiving a scholarship from Coach (Dino) Babers.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

Mahoney: I have a friend back home, Blake, who has a rare disease, Niemann Pic-C, and I have seen how rare diseases affect families first hand. I wanted to be able to help those in the Syracuse area who were going through something similar to Blake. This experience has really opened my eyes up to the true power of sports and the impact it has on our communities.

.As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

Mahoney: Running out of the tunnel. There is no feeling like running out of some smoke to 30,000 screaming fans.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Mahoney: Tom Brady. He was questioned a lot coming out of college and did nothing but work hard to become the greatest NFL quarterback of all time.

If you could have lunch with any one person (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

Mahoney: Big Cat and PFT. They are some true football guys guys. I think it would be a very entertaining meal.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

Mahoney: Clemson. They had a very nice atmosphere and it was one of the nicer road fields I have played on.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football or big goals for the future?

Mahoney: I want to play football for as a long as I can. I want football to be a part of my life for as long as I am living. With all that being said, I would also love to help as many people as I can through the power of football.

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What is your perfect pizza?

Mahoney: Girodano’s, Chicago deep dish pizza

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Mahoney: AC/DC: Thunderstruck, Cardi B: Bodak Yellow, Jesse McCartney: Beautiful Soul

Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus?

Mahoney: Miley Cyrus

 If you could spend the day with any celebrity, who would it be?

Mahoney: Rob Gronkowski, he is a wonderful football player and really knows how to send it

What was the last movie you went to the theater and saw?

Mahoney: Hitman’s Bodyguard, our coach made us go see it

In the Mountains or on a Beach?

Mahoney: Beach

What’s the last picture you took with your phone?

Mahoney: A picture of my dog