Former Northwestern RB Justin Jackson using the NFL Combine to give back by doing Reps For Rare Diseases

JUSTIN JACKSON RFRD 18Former Northwestern running back Justin Jackson has chosen to make the 2018 NFL Combine a platform to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport.

Jackson is doing a Reps For Rare Diseases campaign to raise money and awareness for Uplifting Athletes to support the Rare Disease Community.

Fans can pledge any amount for each bench press repetition Jackson registers at the NFL Combine by visiting his Reps For Rare Diseases site.

The proceeds from this Reps For Rare Diseases campaign support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

“As I take a step toward my NFL dream, I’d like to use this opportunity to give back,” Jackson said. “I have committed my performance at the NFL Combine to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission to help tackle rare diseases.”

Make your pledge now to join Justin Jackson in the fight against rare diseases at the NFL Combine.


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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


Five college football programs with an Uplifting Athletes Chapter close out the season with a bowl victory

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seven college football programs with an Uplifting Athletes Chapter were involved in one of the 41 bowl games to end the 2017 season.

Five of the seven, Florida State, NC State, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Penn State, came out with victories in their final game of the year.

NC State set a Sun Bowl record with six rushing touchdowns on in a three-touchdown victory over Arizona State. The Wolfpack offense piled up nearly 500 yards while the defense forced ASU into four turnovers. NC State finished 9-4 overall and should finish inside the Top 20.

Penn State wrapped up its second 11-win season in a row behind 342 yards passing from Fiesta Bowl MVP Trace McSorley to nudge past Washington. The Nittany Lions, who converted on 13 of 17 third-down opportunities, jumped out to a 28-7 lead before the Huskies made a late charge. PSU finished as a Top 10 team for the second year in a row.

Northwestern’s defense knocked down a 2-point conversion by Kentucky in the dying seconds to give the Wildcats a one-point victory in the Music City Bowl. The win was Northwestern’s eighth in a row and gave a Wildcats squad that was 2-3 at one point a 10-win season. RB Justin Jackson was a workhorse, carrying 32 times for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin made a dramatic one-handed catch and then raced 55 yards for the score with less than 90 seconds remaining to propel the Fighting Irish past LSU in the Citrus Bowl. The win gave ND a 10-win season, ended a nine-game losing streak in January postseason games and was the Fighting Irish’s first New Year’s Day win since the 1994 Cotton Bowl.

Florida State closed out a difficult 2017 that included major injuries to key players and the departure of long-time head coach Jimbo Fisher with four consecutive victories to avoid its first losing season since 1976. The Seminoles ran away from South Mississippi behind an Independence Bowl record four touchdown passes from freshman quarterback James Blackman.

Defending National Champion Clemson played Alabama in its final game of the season for the third consecutive year. And for the first time since 2015, the College Football Playoff Championship Game did not include the Tigers after they fell to the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.

With five programs with an Uplifting Athletes Chapter finishing with at least 10 wins, Clemson, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State and Washington, and NC State finishing with nine victories, there could be six chapter schools ranked inside the final Top 20 rankings.


Seven Uplifting Athletes Chapters headed to postseason bowl games

BOWL IMAGESeven college football programs with an Uplifting Athletes Chapter are headed to bowl games to put a bow on their 2017 college football season.

Florida State, NC State, Northwestern, Penn State, Notre Dame, Washington and Clemson all finished bowl eligible this season.

Clemson, the defending National Champions, are in the College Football Playoffs for the third consecutive year and will take on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in one semifinal.

Penn State finished with its second double-digit win season in a row and its two losses were by a combined four points. The Nittany Lions, who are part of the New Year’s Six after coming in at No. 9 in the final CFP rankings, will play fellow Uplifting Athletes Chapter Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.

Florida State is going through a major coaching change, but the Seminoles won their final game of the regular season to keep their streak of consecutive bowl appearances at 36 and counting. FSU will take on Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl.

Northwestern was one of the hottest teams in college football down the stretch. The Wildcats finished the regular season with seven consecutive victories, including three straight in overtime, to end up inside the Top 25 of the final CFP rankings. Northwestern will play Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

Notre Dame was one of the four teams ranked early in the CFP rankings, but struggled down the stretch and finished 9-3 overall. But the Fighting Irish still drew a nice bowl destination, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and get a strong opponent in LSU.

NC had a solid season, finishing 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the ACC, and finished inside the final CFP Top 25 rankings. The reward for the Wolfpack is a trip to the desert to play Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.

Uplifting Athletes Chapters are run by current college football student-athletes and use the platform of college football to support mission of Uplifting Athletes to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.




Weekly Update: Stony Brook runs past Lehigh in NCAA FCS postseason opener and Northwestern wins seventh in a row

WEEK 13 GRAPHICStony Brook was making its third appearance in the NCAA FCS College Football Playoffs, and in each of the previous two postseason visits, in 2011 and 2012, the Seawolves won their opener.

Make it 3-for-3 in first round games as Stony Brook used a punishing ground game that piled up 354 yards to overwhelm Patriot League co-champion Lehigh at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Donald Liotine, Stacey Bedell and Jordan Gowins combined for 38 of Stony Brook’s 49 rushing attempts. The trio totaled 274 yards on the ground with five touchdowns, led by Liotine’s 133 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.

Next up for the Seawolves, who rang up 622 total yards in posting their sixth win a row, is a visit to defending NCAA FCS champion James Madison Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

Northwestern wrapped up a nine-win regular season by steamrolling Illinois. The victory was the seventh in a row for the Wildcats and will earn head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s squad a tasty bowl bid. Led by 144 yards rushing from Uplifting Athletes Co-Rare Performance of the Week honoree Justin Jackson, the Wildcats pounded out more than 300 yards on the ground.

Florida State rolled past in-state rival Florida to get within one victory of being bowl eligible. The Seminoles used a pair of defensive touchdowns to subdue the Gators in a defensive battle where the teams combined for fewer than 500 yards.

Penn State finished with 10 regular-season victories for the second year in a row with a convincing road victory at Maryland. The Nittany Lions spread the wealth around offensively, led by more than 250 total yards and three touchdowns from Uplifting Athletes Co-Rare Performance of the Week honoree QB Trace McSorley.

Clemson is heading back to the ACC title game and is one victory shy of a third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoffs after rolling rival South Carolina in the Palmetto State Bowl. The Tigers raced out to a 34-0 advantage after three quarters behind 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns from QB Kelly Bryant.

NC State RB Nyheim Hines had a career-best 196 yards on the ground to power the Wolfpack past North Carolina to finish the regular season 8-4 overall and set themselves up well in the ACC pecking order in terms of a bowl bid with a 6-2 conference record.



Penn State QB Trace McSorley’s and Northwestern RB Justin Jackson’s Big Ten records earn shared Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week honor

TRACEJUSTIN IMAGEA pair of Big Ten players posted strong performances on the final weekend of the regular season and finished the season as only the second player in conference history to complete their rare accomplishment.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and Northwestern running back Justin Jackson both entered the Big Ten record books and share the final Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week for 2017.

McSorley threw a pair of touchdowns and rushed for another score in the Nittany Lions victory at Maryland. With those three touchdowns, McSorley became only the second player in Big Ten history to pass for 25 and rush for 10 touchdowns in the same season.

He joins Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett from Ohio State on the list. Barrett established the benchmark in 2014.

Jackson, who carried 18 times for 144 and a touchdown in the Wildcats’ seventh consecutive victory, is only the second player in Big Ten history to rush for 1,000 or more yards all four years.

He joins 1999 Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Fame member Ron Dayne from Wisconsin as the only other Big Ten running back to accomplish this.

Previous Uplifting Athletes

Rare Performance of the Week Winners

Week 1: RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame

Week 2: QB Ryan Finley, NC State

Week 3: QB Trace McSorley, Penn State

Week 4: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Week 5: WR Ervin Philips, Syracuse

Week 6: QB Chad Kanoff, Princeton

Week 7: QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse

Week 8: WR Jesper Horsted, Princeton

Week 9: QB Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

Week 10: QB Will Fischer-Colbrie, Penn

Week 11: QB Zack Mahoney, Syracuse

Week 12: WR Justin Motlow, Florida State