Chapter Update: 13 teams committed to Tackling Rare Diseases open 2019 season with victories


Terrell Johnson hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass with 77 seconds remaining and Trevor Thompson nailed the extra point to help Saint Francis win its season opener in come-from-behind fashion on the road at Lehigh by a point.

The Red Flash victory wasn’t without plenty of late drama, though. Lehigh moved the ball down the field from its own 3-yard-line in the dying seconds and had a 40-yard field goal attempt to win it. Mountain Hawks kicker Austin Henning nailed his first attempt, but SFU had called timeout to ice him before the kick. His second attempt sailed wide right.

Saint Francis Chapter President Nick Rinella came up with the key play of the second half to keep the Red Flash on the comeback trail. After trailing 13-0 at halftime, Saint Francis cut the deficit to 13-7 late in the third quarter. Lehigh answered with a solid drive and was inside the SFU 10 when Rinella jumped a slant route on second down and returned the interception 34 yards.

Learn more about Lehigh Chapter President Jorge Portorreal in our Beyond The Trophy series.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions rolled up the third most total yards in school history – 673 – while limiting Idaho to five first downs and less than 150 total yards in the blowout victory. The Nittany Lions saw five running backs score seven rushing touchdowns, PSU Chapter President Sean Clifford threw for 280 yards and a couple scores in his first career start and the defense totaled seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss.

Stony Brook: Powered by a balanced offense and a stingy run defense the Seawolves won at home for the 10th time in a row. Stony Brook’s defense set the tone when DB Synceir Malone returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown to open scoring in the first quarter.

Syracuse: The nationally ranked Orange rode a defense that posted eight sacks, limited Liberty to minus-4 yards rushing and pitched a shutout to overcome a new-look offense that sputtered at times. It was Syracuse’s first away-game shutout since the Orange won at Tulane (24-0) on Sept. 28, 1991.

Davidson: Running back William Wicks capped an 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to propel the Wildcats past Georgetown. Davidson led 20-0 at halftime before the Hoyas rallied with 20 third-quarter points off a trio of Wildcat turnovers. 

Illinois: New Fighting Illini quarterback Brandon Peters threw for a trio of touchdowns and rushed for another and the Illinois defense limited Akron to fewer than 200 yards in a comfortable and complete victory. This was the 22nd victory for the Illini in a home opener – the fourth longest active streak in the country.

Western Michigan: Senior quarterback John Wassink threw for 368 yards and tied a career-best with five touchdown passes to power the Broncos to an impressive 35-point home victory over Monmouth. It was the third 300-plus yard passing game of Wassink’s career and the second year in a row he reached that number in the season opener after throwing for 379 a year ago against Syracuse.

Clemson: The consensus No. 1 team in the country opened the defense of its National Championship by running past Georgia Tech. Powered by a career day from running back Travis Etienne, the Tigers rushed for 411 yards – the most by Clemson in a season opener since 1957 and the most allowed by the Yellow Jackets since 1975. Etienne rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns. His 90-yard gallop in the first quarter tied for the longest run in school history and is the longest run by a Tiger at Memorial Stadium to earn the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week honor.

Notre Dame: The final score might say this was a comfortable road opener for the Fighting Irish, but it wasn’t. Notre Dame trailed 14-7 in the first quarter and relied on an 11-yard touchdown run by QB Ian Book just before the half to pave the path to victory. Turnovers were key, as the Irish defense forced five fumbles and recovered three of them.

NC State: New Wolfpack quarterback Matthew McKay became only the third NC State quarterback since 1970 to throw for more than 300 yards in his first career start in their victory over East Carolina. He joins Phillip Rivers (2000) and Harrison Beck (2007) in this exclusive club. McKay totaled 308 yards through the air with a touchdown and also added a pair of rushing scores for an NC State team that is rebuilding. Six players made their first college start and 17 players made their NC State debut including 10 freshmen.

Maryland: New starting quarterback Josh Jackson, a transfer from Virginia Tech, threw four touchdown passes in his Maryland debut to help the Terrapins shatter the school record for points in a half with 56 in the blowout of Howard. 

Baylor: RB Trestan Ebner and WR R.J. Sneed combined to score five touchdowns for the Bears in a rout of Stephen F. Austin at home.

Richmond: The Spiders used 31 first-half points to subdue Jacksonville and record their 14th straight victory in a home opener – a streak that started in 2005 and is inside the Top 10 for FCS schools nationally.

Beyond The Trophy 2019: Get to know Lehigh Chapter President and WR Jorge Portorreal


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: Jorge Portorreal

College: Lehigh University

Height, weight, class, position: 5-11, 190, junior, wide receiver

High School: St. Peter’s Prep in Union, N.J.

About Jorge: After two seasons with the Mountain Hawks, Jorge has emerged as a go-to receiver. In addition to be a consistent performer as a wideout, he also returns kickoffs and punts. As a freshman in 2017 he appeared in all 12 games, made seven starts and finished with 56 catches for 729 yards and a touchdown. As a sophomore he led the team in receptions (55) and yards (794) with three touchdowns. He was a First Team All-Patriot League selection in 2018. … In the early stages of possibly starting an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Lehigh, Jorge was one of the players in the team room that stepped forward and said he was inspired by the cause of serving the Rare Disease Community and is willing to volunteer for a leadership role. He attended the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in 2019 and as the Lehigh Chapter President oversaw the inaugural Lift For Life earlier this year.

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

PORTORREAL: Winning a Patriot League championship.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

PORTORREAL: Once I became aware of the situation at hand, I recognized the opportunity I had to get involved and could not hesitate to help and spread awareness and raise money with my brothers. 

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

PORTORREAL: Uplifting Athletes enabled me to meet other student-athletes from different cultures, perspectives, and teams while gifting me the opportunity to assist the Rare Disease Community. 

What advice would you share with someone in high school looking to play college football?

PORTORREAL: Get ready for the most memorable moments in your life.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

PORTORREAL: Antonio Brown, simply because his work ethic and the level of preparation that he puts into the game of football. I love how he was someone who was very overlooked and worked his way to be the top receiver in the NFL. His versatility is something that I try to model my game after, being able to play in the slot, outside WR, punt returner, kick returner, etc. 

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

PORTORREAL: I would have lunch with Travis Scott. I just love the demeanor and energy he brings to the people around him and how he goes about his business. He is someone who is an originator, his creativity is unmatched which explains why he is so different than others. I see this in my personal life with being ok having differences and expanding creativity while being confident whether that is on or off the field. I really want to pick his brain a bit on what drives him to be who he is and how he does that with millions of people watching consistently. 

JORGE ON THE HOT SEAT

What is your perfect pizza?

PORTORREAL: Buffalo Chicken with hot sauce

All time favorite movie?

PORTORREAL: The Home Alone series

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

PORTORREAL: Chick-Fil-A

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

PORTORREAL: Pittsburgh Steelers

What is the most used app on your phone?

PORTORREAL: Snapchat

Lift For Life 2019 was a tremendous success and saw a record 21 college football chapters hold events


Over the course of five months, earlier this year, a record 21 members of the Uplifting Athletes’ chapter network held our signature event, Lift For Life, to raise awareness and funds in support of the Rare Disease Community.

Lift For Life 2019 was conducted in two phases. It started in Philadelphia with Penn on February 23 and finished in Waco, Texas with Baylor on July 24.

In between, the impact these student-athletes had on the Rare Disease Community, using their platform and voice as college football players to inspire others and support the cause, was staggering.

“While each program uses their platform in their own unique way, the common thread that unifies our chapter network is the forward thinking that enables these special student-athletes to empower their teammates to share their spotlight in order to shed light on a community that truly needs, values and appreciates the support,” said Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett. “Uplifting Athletes is humbled to work with such incredible student-athletes.”

During this year’s Lift For Life season, the audience created by these 21 chapters was over 52 million. More than 34 million of that came through social media followers and another 18.5 million was generated by online news focused on the 2019 events.

Every Lift For Life is unique at each university campus, but the driving force behind the event is the same for all our chapters nationwide. Lift For Life is an opportunity for teams to take a regular strength and conditioning workout and use it to raise money and awareness for the Rare Disease Community.

This year, Lift For Life raised nearly $175,000. The proceeds from Lift For Life support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

Once Penn kicked off Lift For Life 2019, Phase 1 charged into high gear with Stony Brook, Saint Francis, Davidson, Lehigh, Marist and Princeton holding events in March, April and May.

Phase 2 of Lift For Life was ignited by Northwestern and Western Michigan lighting the fuse with events in May and June, respectively.

That set the table for the Rare Road Trip 2019 – the final Lift For Life blitz that saw 12 chapters hold events over a 12-day period in July.

Kent State started the Rare Road Trip 2019 ball rolling and was followed by Penn State, Florida State, Clemson, NC State, Syracuse, Maryland, Notre Dame, Colgate, Illinois, Eastern Illinois and was capped off by Baylor.

The record 21 FBS and FCS chapters that gave their all to support the Rare Disease Community represented 10 NCAA Football Conferences including: Ivy League, Colonial Athletic Association, Northeast Conference, Pioneer Football League, Big Ten Conference, Mid-American Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Patriot League, Big 12 and Ohio Valley Conference.

Congratulations to Lehigh, Marist, Western Michigan, Kent State and Eastern Illinois for each holding its inaugural Lift For Life this year. It’s an honor to have those programs join our team.

“Lift For Life 2019 reached new heights with a record number of chapters hosting events and five programs holding their first Lift For Life as part of our team,” Brackett said. “We are grateful to everyone involved for making Lift For Life a success and joining us to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.”

Seven chapters make for a busy and successful Spring Lift For Life schedule


This was a busy spring with seven chapters holding Lift For Life events in support of Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport.

Penn, Stony Brook, Saint Francis, Davidson, Lehigh, Marist and Princeton, all FCS college football programs, recently held their annual Lift For Life events.

2019 Penn Chapter Lift For Life

For the Lehigh and Marist Chapters, 2019 was their inaugural Lift For Life as part of the Uplifting Athletes team.

“Starting an Uplifting Athletes chapter at Marist is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up on. I’ve always wanted to get involved in the community and help those who need it and with Uplifting Athletes I believe that’s possible,” said Red Foxes safety and Marist Chapter founder Paul Olivett. “On behalf of Marist and the football team, we look forward to being a part of the many college teams tackling rare diseases.”

Lift For Life is the signature fundraising event of the Uplifting Athletes nationwide network of chapters led by college football student-athletes.

2019 Lehigh Chapter Lift For Life

Lift For Life is unique at each university campus, but the driving force behind the event is the same for all our chapters nationwide. Lift For Life is an opportunity for teams to take a regular strength and conditioning workout and use it to raise money and awareness for the Rare Disease Community.

The Davidson Chapter reached a milestone this year when it became only the fourth Uplifting Athletes Chapter to raise more than $10,000 in each of its first two Lift For Life events joining Penn State, Boston College and Notre Dame in rare fundraising air.

“It’s been incredible to see the development and growth of our Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Davidson College,” Davidson Chapter leaders and co-founders George Hatalowich and Kevin Stipe said. “Our success is truly a testament to the players, coaches, and athletic department that bought into the organization and our chapter’s goals.

“We are extremely proud to be a part of Davidson’s Chapter and we can’t thank the Uplifting Athletes organization enough for their continuous support and guidance throughout this entire process.”

2019 Davidson Chapter Lift For Life

The seven events to kick off the 2019 Lift For Life schedule this spring raised more than $50,000 to support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

“It is an honor to be able to use our platform to help raise awareness and support the Rare Disease Community through Uplifting Athletes,” Saint Francis Chapter President Nick Rinella said. “We are all proud to be part of a team that is working so hard to tackle rare diseases.”

Today, the challenges faced by the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. Each chapter is part of the nationwide network of teams that are uniquely positioned to educate and engage their local community to shine a spotlight on the rare disease cause.

Lift For Life will continue throughout the summer with the FBS schools kicking their offseason training into high gear along with a couple FCS schools that opted for summer events instead of the spring.

“Uplifting Athletes has given me a humbling and incredible opportunity to help give back to the Rare Disease Community,” Princeton Chapter President and offensive lineman Luke Aschenbrand said. “Meeting rare disease patients who appreciate the effort we put in and are thankful for the outreach of their message makes what we do worth it.

2019 Princeton Chapter Lift For Life

Five Chapters use annual spring game to raise awareness for Rare Disease Community


There are many ways the Uplifting Athletes nationwide network of chapter’s use their platform to inspire the Rare Disease Community.

Shining a spotlight on the more than 30 million Americans affected by rare diseases is part of each chapter’s mission.

Five years ago, the Penn State Chapter started raising awareness by wearing Uplifting Athletes stickers on their helmets and patches on their Nittany Lions jerseys for their annual Blue-White Game.

Over the years, Maryland, Princeton and Stony Brook have each at one time displayed the helmet sticker as part of their spring game to raise awareness.

This spring five teams, Penn State, Lehigh, Davidson, Saint Francis and Syracuse, committed to highlighting the rare disease cause by putting an Uplifting Athletes sticker on its helmets at their respective spring games.

The challenges faced by the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. Our nationwide network of chapters, run by college football student-athletes, take pride in the opportunity to shine a spotlight on rare diseases.

Thank you to the athletic departments at Davidson, Lehigh, Penn State, Saint Francis and Syracuse for supporting their football student-athletes and Uplifting Athletes by allowing their squads to recognize the Rare Disease Community as part of its 2019 spring football game.

Lehigh Chapter announces inaugural Lift For Life to inspire Rare Disease Community set for April 30


Uplifting Athletes is pleased to have Lehigh University join the nationwide network of chapters led by college football student-athletes holding Lift For Life events in 2019.

The Mountain Hawks will hold their inaugural Lift For Life to support the Rare Disease Community on Tuesday, April 30 at 4:30 p.m. outside the University Center. The event is open to the public.

Lift For Life is the signature fundraising event for the Lehigh Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. Lehigh is a part of Uplifting Athletes’ nationwide network of chapters led by college football student-athletes.

Each chapter embraces the mission of Uplifting Athletes by using college football as a platform to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport.

“At Lehigh Football we pride ourselves on giving back to the community,” said the Lehigh Chapter leaders. “We are excited to partner with Uplifting Athletes and to help raise awareness and funds for the Rare Disease Community”

The 2019 Lehigh Chapter Lift For Life will be an Offense vs. Defense competition based on the average number of 225-pound bench press repetitions each side of the ball averages.

Fans and supporters can choose your favorite side of the ball and make a pledge for the number of bench press repetitions that team averages. So pick one side of the ball and support them by visiting the Lehigh Chapter Lift For Life site. You can also make a flat donation to any team.

The proceeds from the Lehigh Chapter 2019 Lift For Life support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

Today, the challenges faced by the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. The Lehigh Chapter, along with a nationwide network of teams, is uniquely positioned to educate and engage the local community to shine a spotlight on rare diseases.

The Lehigh University football program became part of the nationwide network of chapters led by college football student-athletes last year. The 2018 Touchdown Pledge Drive was the Mountain Hawks’ first event to support the Rare Disease Community. And earlier this year former Lehigh star running back Dom Bragalone participated in the 2019 Uplifting Athletes Reps For Rare Diseases campaign.

Please support the Lehigh Chapter and help the 2019 Mountain Hawks reach their impressive $5,000 team Lift For Life goal.