39 Uplifting Athletes Chapter Leaders put through paces in Atlanta during 11th annual Leadership Development Conference


The cornerstone of the Uplifting Leaders program is our network of Chapters on campuses across the country led by college football student-athletes.

This past weekend, 39 leaders from 20 schools gathered in Atlanta for a high impact and fast paced weekend of learning and development during our 11th annual Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference.

The 2020 conference provided an opportunity for our Chapter leadership to develop relationships that stretch beyond the football field, to absorb enhanced mission and vision insight based on Uplifting Athletes’ four programs – Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders – and to plot a chapter strategy for 2020.

“The difference for me this year was it’s a new group of guys mostly, but you establish similar quality of relationships,” said Clemson Chapter leader and Tigers’ long snapper Jack Maddox, who was attending his second conference. “I have a year of experience now, so I know more about what’s going on. I’m not overwhelmed as much and I know what we can and can’t do at our chapter. It’s such a valuable weekend.”

Following a meet-and-greet dinner Friday night, the conference kicked off Saturday with a full day of programming. Four breakout sessions led by Uplifting Athletes staff were followed by an “entering the real world” question-and-answer session with former college athletes.

The highlight of Saturday was the Uplifting Experience at the College Football Hall of Fame where 24 rare disease patients, caregivers and families were connected with the Chapter leaders to spend a couple hours experiencing the Hall of Fame together.

“I loved that the athletes had an opportunity to meet individuals with rare diseases outside of a hospital setting,” said Carol Unger, whose 32-year-old son Matthew is diagnosed with the ultra rare disease WAGR Syndrome. “I feel it is important to note that our children grow up, although some may still be at the maturity level of a 7 or 8 year old, and cherish those opportunities to meet with folks from the outside world.”

The first day of the conference closed out with a work session on three of Uplifting Athletes’ main events – Lift For Life, Reps For Rare Diseases and Touchdown Pledge Drive.

“Since Penn State is such an established chapter, my journey here is to learn what else can we do next to help support the Rare Disease Community,” said Penn State Chapter leader and long snapper Chris Stoll, who is in line to be the next PSU Chapter President taking over for quarterback Sean Clifford.

“I’m very excited to be more involved at another level. Sean did a great job and put a lot into it. But he’s our starting quarterback now and that’s a big job. I’m pumped to be here again and to meet so many guys who have passion for the rare disease cause and for using their platform to make a difference. And I’m very excited to get more involved at the next level.”

Sunday started with Dr. David Fajgenbaum, a former Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft grant recipient, founder of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network and rare disease research pioneer, sharing his story via a live video conference.

The conference wrapped up with some additional highlights of Uplifting Athletes’ programming that is available to support the rare disease cause and a work session to kick off 2020 at the chapter level.

A special thank you to all our sponsors and supporters who made this conference possible, Deloitte, Sanofi Genzyme, Jean Campbell and JFC Consulting and the College Football Hall of Fame. With your help, these young men are making a difference in the Rare Disease Community.

Chapter Update: Penn State matches program standard with another 10-win season and seven teams post Week 14 victories


Penn State won for the 10th consecutive time at Beaver Stadium and, in the process of upending Rutgers on Senior Day, the Nittany Lions tied a double-digit victory standard for the program.

For the third time in four years Penn State has won at least 10 games. It marks the first time the Nittany Lions have accomplished three double-digit win seasons in a four-year span since 1993-1996.

Penn State has been stellar at home during this historic run – capping a third unbeaten slate at Beaver Stadium in the last four years. The last time that happened was 1972-1975.

Backup quarterback Will Levis made his first start and rushed for 108 yards. Running back Journey Brown chipped in with 103 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. The last time Penn State had a pair of 100-yard rushers was 2015 and the last time that combination was a QB and RB was 2005.

The Nittany Lions finished solo second in the Big Ten East behind undefeated Ohio State and are in line for a New Year’s Six bowl bid.

Baylor: Two years ago the Bears were a one-win team in head coach Matt Rhule’s first season in Waco. Their only victory in 2017 was on the road at Kansas. Two years later Baylor returned to Memorial Stadium in Lawrence and thumped the Jayhawks to complete a 1-11 to 11-1 turnaround and punched their ticket to the Big 12 Championship game Saturday. Baylor is the first Power 5 program to go from 1-11 to 11-1 in two years. In one of its most dominant conference victories in program history, the Bears rang up 264 yards on the ground, scored on five of their first six possessions and the defense produced six turnovers.

Clemson: The Tigers won their 27th game in a row, nailed down the eighth undefeated regular season in program history and third under head coach Dabo Swinney, by knocking off Palmetto State rival South Carolina. Junior running back Travis Etienne broke the ACC record for career rushing touchdowns with a three-yard blast in the fourth quarter for his 53rd career touchdown on the ground. His historic touchdown earned Etienne the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 18 consecutive passes against the Gamecocks to set a school record for consecutive completions, surpassing the previous mark of 15. The 18 straight completions also tied the ACC record for consecutive completions.

Learn more about Florida State Chapter President and linebacker DeCalon Brooks in our Beyond The Trophy series

Northwestern: The Wildcats used a powerful running game and a stingy defense to subdue Illinois and claim the Land of Lincoln Trophy for a program-record fifth time in a row. Northwestern posted 378 yards on the ground and eclipsed the 350-plus yard mark rushing for the first time since 2012. Senior defensive lineman Trent Goens had a career day in his final game with three tackles for a loss (TFL), a quarterback hurry (QBH) and a forced fumble. Only one Wildcat has replicated that stat line since 2000 – Malcolm Arrington in 2008. Goens also finished with six tackles, five of them solo stops, and a pass break-up to power a defense that limited the Fighting Illini to 160 total yards.

Notre Dame: Trailing by 10 points in the first half, the Fighting Irish ripped off 24 unanswered points to reach the 10-win plateau for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in the last five years. Senior quarterback Ian Book became the first Fighting Irish in program history with 2,500 passing yards, 500 rushing yards and 30 touchdown passes in a season. He also became the first Notre Dame quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game five times in the victory over Stanford. 

Syracuse: Sophomore defensive back Trill Williams ripped the ball from Wake Forest’s Kendall Hinton at the six and raced 94 yards to the end zone to secure a six-point overtime victory for the Orange at home. Syracuse scored first in OT on a 40-yard field goal. The Demon Deacons were on the move in extra time before Williams stepped in. Each team kicked a 40-plus yard field in the final minute of regulation to force overtime.

Kent State: For the first time since 2012, the Golden Flashes are headed to a bowl game after posting their third consecutive win to reach 6-6 overall by taking out Eastern Michigan on Black Friday. This is only the fourth season Kent State in bowl eligible in the last 30 years. Jamal Parker put the Golden Flashes in the driver’s seat by returning the second-half kickoff 96 yards to give Kent State a three-score lead on the road. EMU pushed back and made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter before the Golden Flashes defense picked off a pass late to earn a bowl invitation for 2019. Junior quarterback Dustin Crum completed 68.3 percent of his passes this year and finished the regular season with an NCAA QB Rating of 155.97. Both those numbers are the best in Golden Flashes program history.

Illinois: The Illini held their 118th annual football banquet Sunday and Illinois Chapter President and tight end Bobby Walker was recognized for his work with Uplifting Athletes in receiving the Service Above Self Award. Despite the loss at home to Northwestern on Senior Day, the Fighting Illini finished 6-6 this year and are bowl eligible for the first time since 2014. Junior kicker James McCourtnailed a 50-yard field in the third quarter against the Wildcats to give him four field goals this season of 50 or more yards. Those four long-range kicks ties the Fighting Illini program record for number of 50-yard or longer field goals in a season.

Chapter Update: Princeton finishes strong and six teams post Week 13 victories


Princeton needed a lot of help to get a share of the 2019 Ivy League crown. All the Tigers could control in the scenario was get a victory over Penn at historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

Led by 172 rushing yards from RB Collin Eaddy and a defense that blanked the Quakers over the final 52 minutes, Princeton overwhelmed Penn to post a three-touchdown victory.

However, Princeton did not earn a share of the Ancient Eight crown this season after winning the title outright in 2018. Dartmouth and Yale ended up sharing the 2019 Ivy League title. But the Tigers did finish 8-2 overall and put together the best two-season run for the program in nearly 70 years.

For the ninth time since the Ivy League went to a 10-game schedule in 1980, Princeton won at least eight games. When you factor in a 10-0 season a year ago, the Tigers reached 18 wins over a two-year span for the first time since 1950-51.

Penn senior running back Karekin Brooks finished off his career with 95 yards against the Tigers to end the season with 1,003 yards. Brooks becomes only the 12th player in the Quakers’ 144-year history to eclipse 1,000 yards and the first since 2006.

The Penn and Princeton programs joined forces for the second consecutive year to make this game an Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Awareness Game by wearing helmet stickers with the Uplifting Athletes logo and #WeTackleRare wristbands to signify their unified commitment to one cause.

They also hosted two exceptional rare disease families who are having an impact on the Rare Disease Community. Dr. David Fajgenbaum and his family and the Combs family were recognized as part of the Rare Disease Awareness Game celebration.

Baylor: Two years ago the Bears were 1-11 and lost all six of their home games. Today, Baylor is headed to the Big 12 Championship game after posting its first win over Texas in their last five meetings. Sparked by a defense that limited a Texas offense that had scored at least 21 points in 28 straight games to only 10 points, Baylor posted its sixth 10-win season in program history. The Bears’ defense had five sacks and now has 38 for the season led by defensive end James Lynch. The junior had 2.0 sacks against the Longhorns to move into the No. 1 spot in program history for career sacks with 19. The previous mark was 17.5 held by Shawn Oakman. Lynch has 10.5 sacks this season and is one sack away from establishing a new school mark for sacks in a single season.

Northwestern: Playing his final game at Ryan Field, Wildcats senior defensive end Joe Gaziano recorded two sacks – the first one for a safety – to become the all-time sack leader at Northwestern with 29. The previous mark of 27 career sacks had stood for 21 years. Gaziano earned the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week.

Kent State: The Golden Flashes kept their bid for a bowl game alive courtesy of kicker Matthew Trickett’s third game winning field goal this season, and second in as many games. This one came from 22 yards out with 19 seconds remaining. Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum had a monster game. The junior became the first Golden Flashes QB to throw for more than 300 yards and eclipse 100 yards rushing since 2004. His 470 yards of total offense was the most for Kent State since Jose Davis posted 474 against Akron in 1997 and his 369 yards through the air was the first time since 2014 a Kent State signal caller eclipsed 350 yards. Kent State is 5-6 and plays at Eastern Michigan on Black Friday.

Learn more about Stony Brook Chapter President and tight end Zach Lucas in our Beyond The Trophy series

Notre Dame: Sparked by three touchdown passes from quarterback Ian Book, the Fighting Irish exploded for 24 unanswered points in the second half to subdue Boston College on Senior Day in South Bend. Notre Dame’s defense limited the Eagles to fewer than 200 total yards. Junior tight end Cole Kmet tied the Notre Dame record for touchdown receptions in a season (six) by a tight end with his 11-yard scoring catch in the third quarter. The only other tight end to catch six touchdown passes in a season was Ken McAfee in 1977.

Marist: In his final game, redshirt senior Andrew McElroy secured a victory for the Red Foxes with a 90-yard interception return in the final minute to give Marist a 12-point lead. He jumped an out route and raced down the sideline for his first career interception. 

Fordham: The Rams ended a four-game slide – three of those losses were by single digits – behind a defense that did not allow any points in a convincing victory over Bucknell. All the Bison’s points came on defensive touchdowns. Trey Sneed had a pair of second-half touchdown runs as Fordham posted the only 21 points after intermission. Freshman wide receiver DeQuence Carter had a season-high 10 catches. His 10 grabs gave Carter 53 for the season to establish a new single-season catch record for a freshman at Fordham. The previous mark of 48 catches was established in 2000.

Chapter Update: Northwestern freshman has breakout performance and 12 teams post Week 12 victories


Behind a breakout performance from true freshman running back Evan Hull, Northwestern won its second game of the season by rolling up 45 points against UMass.

Hull, making his first start of the season, rushed for 220 yards and tied the single-game program record with four touchdowns on the ground. He became the first Wildcat running back to rush for four touchdowns and more than 200 yards in a game since 2005. Hull scored on touchdown runs of 46, 38, 36 and 6 yards.

Northwestern also used a strong effort from its special teams to add points to the scoreboard. Joe Gaziano blocked a 30-yard field goal attempt and Chris Bergin grabbed the loose ball and scooted 85-yards for a scoop-and-score. The Wildcats also recovered a squib kick and turned it into a field goal.

Penn State: Junior quarterback Sean Clifford, the Penn State Chapter President, went over 3,000 total yards for the season and was responsible for three touchdowns as the Nittany Lions bounced back from their first loss of the season. Clifford, who posted 234 total yards of offense, two rushing scores and a passing touchdown against the Hoosiers, finished off a statement drive for Penn State to seal the victory. His 1-yard plunge on fourth down late in the fourth quarter gave the Nittany Lions a 10-point lead and capped an 18-play, 75-yard march that consumed 9:01 of the clock. 

Saint Francis: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jason Brown connected with classmate E.J. Jenkins for three touchdowns to help the Red Flash post their most convincing win of the season. Joel Denley added 157 all-purpose yards and a career-high three rushing touchdowns as part of the 42-point outburst. Saint Francis Chapter President Nick Rinella, one of six seniors honored prior to the game, posted eight tackles and returned the opening kickoff 48 yards. 

In his first year as the starter, Brown’s three touchdown passes against Wagner gives him 23 on the season to take over as the program’s all-time leader in TD passes for a season and earned him the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week.

Penn: The Quakers went on the road to Harvard and set a program milestone in close-to-the-vest Ivy League victories. For the first time in the Ancient Eight era of college football, Penn has won three consecutive games at Harvard Stadium. It was also the third straight win overall for the Quakers, all decided by four points or fewer. Six of Penn’s nine games this season have been decided by five or fewer points. The Quakers are 4-2 in those tight-squeeze affairs. Nick Robinson threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Rory Starkey midway through the fourth quarter to give the Quakers the lead for good. And the Penn defense locked it down with a late fourth-quarter stop on fourth down at its own 30-yard-line.

Clemson: Behind a career-high four touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence and 121 yards from RB Travis Etienne, the Tigers won their sixth consecutive game by 30 or more points – the longest streak in ACC history. Etienne’s 100-plus yard game was his sixth in a row and established a school record for consecutive 100-plus yard games. Wake Forest walked into Memorial Stadium bringing seven wins to the table behind a solid offense. The Tigers’ defense held the Demon Deacons to 105 total yards and five first downs.

Davidson: The Wildcats finished off the road portion of their schedule with a stellar 4-1 mark thanks to 28 unanswered second-half points to pull away from Stetson. Davidson moved to 5-2 in the Pioneer Football League, posting the most league wins by the program since 2006. Junior RB Wesley Dugger continued his assault on the record books with two more touchdowns to become the PFL’s all-time leading scorer and the Davidson single-season leader in rushing touchdowns with 20. Davidson Chapter President and team captain, linebacker George Hatalowich, led a defense that limited Stetson to less than 100 yards the final 30 minutes with a team-high 11 tackles.

Notre Dame: Senior wide receiver Chase Claypool had four touchdown receptions tying him for the most in a single game in Irish history with Maurice Stovall who caught four against BYU in 2005. Three of those touchdown catches came in the first half in the commanding win over Navy, marking the first time an Irish player has posted three touchdown receptions in a single half since at least 1950. Claypool finished with seven catches for 117 yards. Notre Dame Chapter Vice President and linebacker Drew White had a team-high 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. White now leads the Fighting Irish defense in tackles this season.

Learn more about Notre Dame Chapter Vice President and linebacker Drew White in our Beyond The Trophy series

Colgate: Sparked by a defense that found its stride late in the season, the Raiders closed out their 2019 season with three straight victories after blanking Lafayette on the road. It was the third straight season Colgate has blanked Lafayette. After starting 0-7, the Raiders won four of their last five and finished 3-3 in the Patriot League behind a defense that allowed only 27 total points the final 12 quarters of the season.

Syracuse: Fueled by its defense, Syracuse ended its four-game slide and kept its hopes for a bowl bid alive by posting its first win ever against Duke in four tries. Leading 14-6 at halftime, the Orange defense forced three turnovers in the third quarter that the offense turned into 21 points to break the game open. Andre Cisco started the turnover barrage with the first pick-six of his career covering 48 yards that quickly made it 21-6. The 43-point margin of victory was the largest ever for Syracuse in an ACC game.

Western Michigan: In a wild back-and-forth affair that saw the Broncos and Ohio University combine for 10 first-half points but then 31 total points in the fourth quarter, LeVante Bellamy’s four-yard touchdown run in overtime sealed the seventh victory of the season for WMU. After the Broncos’ defense surrendered a late touchdown in regulation that forced OT, they came up with a stand to start the extra session to force a field goal.

Kent State: Trailing Buffalo at home by 21 points with half of the fourth quarter remaining, the Golden Flashes exploded for 24 unanswered points down the stretch to keep their quest for a bowl big alive. Sophomore kicker Matthew Trickett nailed a 44-yard field goal as time expired to cap the biggest fourth-quarter comeback this season in FBS. The field goal to win it by Trickett was his 20th of the season and broke the single-season Kent State record established in 2012 by Freddy Cortez. 

Florida State: For the 38th time in the last 40 years the Seminoles will appear in a bowl game after roughing up FCS Alabama State for win No. 6 this season. In his second stint as interim head coach, Odell Haggins is now 4-0 with FSU averaging nearly 43 points a game in those contests. Haggins is 2-0 this season since taking over and the 49 points scored this week is a season high.

Chapter Update: Record setting home opener for Western Michigan highlights Week 3


It was a record setting night inside Western Michigan’s Waldo Stadium, as the Broncos offense ran wild over Georgia State with nearly 700 total yards.

Four WMU running backs combined to score a program-record seven touchdowns. The seven rushing touchdowns are also the fifth most by a Mid-American Conference (MAC) team in a single game.

Senior running back LeVante Bellamy led the offensive explosion with 192 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Freshman Sean Tyler chipped in with 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns to give the Broncos two backs with 100-plus yards for the fifth time in the last 30 games.

Western Michigan Chapter President Justin Tranquill, a safety for the Broncos, had four tackles, his second career interception and also had a pass break up.

Davidson: Led by a scrappy defense that limited West Virginia Wesleyan to fewer than 200 total yards, the Wildcats improved to 3-0 for the second consecutive season and posted its first shutout since the 2014 season. The Davidson offense registered a season-high 357 yards on the ground and for the third consecutive game did not surrender a point in the first half – grabbing a 17-0 lead at intermission. Davidson Chapter co-founders and leaders, linebacker George Hatalowich and safety Kevin Stipe, combined to make four tackles.

Northwestern: The Wildcats won their home opener over UNLV on the strength of nearly 450 yards of total offense and a defense that forced three turnovers and held the Rebels scoreless in the second half. Running back Drake Anderson had a career day, posting 141 yards on 26 carries, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Defensive end Joe Gaziano had a monster game with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Gaziano is only the fourth Wildcats player since 2000 to have a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a game. Northwestern Chapter Vice President Joe Spivak recorded the first solo tackle, sack and tackle for a loss of his career.

Learn more about Northwestern Chapter Vice President Joe Spivak in our Beyond The Trophy series

Penn State: Bolstered by a fourth-quarter goal line stand and a third quarter touchdown run by freshman running back Noah Cain, the Nittany Lions edged in-state rival Pitt in the 100th meeting between the two schools. The Panthers had first-and-goal from the 1-yard-line with less than five minutes to play trailing by a touchdown and came away with zero points. PSU Chapter President, starting quarterback Sean Clifford, threw for 222 yards. Nittany Lions kicker Jordan Stout broke the school record with a 57-yard field goal in the second quarter to earn the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week award. The previous record was held by Chris Bahr, who booted three 55-yard field goals in 1975. Penn State Chapter Vice President Chris Stoll is the Nittany Lions’ long snapper and was part of Stout’s record kick.

Marist: Fifth-year senior wide receiver Anthony Olivencia hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass with 8:52 to play to vault the Red Foxes to their first victory of the season. Kicker Luke Paladino’s 49-yard field goal in the first quarter tied the school record, previously set in 2011. 

Stony Brook: The Seawolves won for the 11th consecutive time at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium behind a balanced offensive attack that overwhelmed visiting Wagner. Stony Brook had 551 total yards – 282 passing and 269 rushing. Quarterback Tyquell Fields, in his first season as the starter, registered his career-best in completions (11) and yards (282). Fields’ 282 yards was the most by a Stony Brook quarterback since the 2013 season. Stony Brook Chapter President, tight end Zach Lucas, had a pair of catches for 15 yards.

Clemson: The No. 1 team in the country set a school record for consecutive victories with win No. 18 on the road at Syracuse. The 18th win in a row surpassed the mark of 17 set in 2014-15. The Tigers defense recorded eight sacks and limited the Orange to fewer than 200 total yards. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence set a new career-high in passing yards with 395 and three touchdowns. Clemson Chapter President, punter Will Spiers, averaged 40.5 yards on six punts with a long of 53 yards.

Saint Francis: The Red Flash improved to 2-1 overall on the strength of a balanced offense and a strong second half to pull away from Merrimack in its home opener. Saint Francis outscored the visitors 22-0 over the final two quarters and were a perfect 7-for-7 in the red zone with five touchdowns.

Notre Dame: Behind a defense that produced three first-half interceptions including a pick-six to open the scoring and a 31-point second quarter the Top 10 nationally ranked Fighting Irish rolled over New Mexico to record their 12th consecutive victory at home. Notre Dame Chapter co-Vice President, linebacker Drew White, registered four tackles including one tackle for a loss.

Fordham: The Rams exploded in the fourth quarter with 23 unanswered points to rally from behind to knock off Bryant on the road to record victory No. 1 of the season. Limited to a trio of field goals for more than three quarters, Fordham ripped off touchdowns covering 48, 45 and 20 yards in a 5-minute span the second half of the fourth quarter to pull away.

Beyond The Trophy 2019: Get to know Northwestern Chapter Vice President and defensive tackle Joe Spivak


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: Joe Spivak

College: Northwestern Wildcats

Height, weight, class, position: 6-0, 290-pound, junior, defensive tackle

High School: Montini Catholic in Darien, Ill.

About Joe: The junior came to Northwestern in 2017 with a ton of leadership qualities after being the first sophomore in his school to be selected as a team captain and Joe was a three-year captain at Montini Catholic. … One of 12 true freshman to play during the 2017, Joe saw action in five games as a back-up defensive tackle and made his first career tackle against Minnesota. … Joe Spivak joined the leadership team for the Northwestern Chapter in 2018 and has moved into a leadership role for 2019, serving as the chapter Vice President. He attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and became passionate about the rare disease cause. He helped guide the Northwestern Chapter to a successful Lift For Life earlier this year. … As a sophomore in 2018 Joe played in nine games as a defensive tackle and an Academic All-Big Ten selection.

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

SPIVAK: The national anthem at the B1G Championship last year.  The crowd was roaring the whole time and I was sobbing like a baby! Lol! Such a powerful moment and the embodiment of so much hard work for so many young men on that field and parents in the stands!

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

SPIVAK: Growing up, my parents and three older sisters opened my eyes to all the amazing things that come from investing yourself in athletics: the health benefits, the development of lifelong habits, the importance of goal-setting … The list could go on and on but what I think is the greatest is the relationships that come from sports! Football has brought me so many priceless relationships and made my family so much larger. I believe that these relationships and formation of a team is what is at the core of Uplifting Athletes: We want to help the Rare Disease Community know that they are NOT alone and we are on their team! 

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

SPIVAK: Just how “not rare” rare disease is! Just about every one of us has had our lives affected by rare diseases and to think that families affected can sometimes be told they are alone in the fight makes me eager to let them know we are there!

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

SPIVAK: Grind, grind, and grind some more … but SMILE through it all! To get to the college gridiron takes countless hours of training and the discipline to make the right decisions consistently, but to even be able to have ‘College Football’ as a goal is a blessing and should be viewed like it. Your attitude is all you can control at the end of the day, and when you view the journey itself as a blessing (not just the end-goal) the quality of your craft will skyrocket. Your height, weight, and 40 yard dash time do not define your skill-set … YOU DO!

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

SPIVAK: John Randle is easily my favorite NFL player. Randle (whose number I wear today-93) was also an undersized DT but above all was an absolute JUICE FACTORY. The guy basically trademarked trash talking and is arguably the most enthusiastic player to ever be on an NFL field. I encourage everyone to watch some videos of him on YouTube. Honorable Mention also goes to my cousin Michael Hoomanawanui who played TE for nine seasons in the league and the big brother I never had! 

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

SPIVAK: I would choose my grandfather from my dad’s side, Joe Spivak II. I never knew my grandpa Spivak but I wish I did. When he was in the sixth grade he left school during the depression to work and help provide for his family. He worked in a steel-mill for the rest of his life among an additional 1-2 more jobs to provide for my dad and his 12 siblings. My parents tell me stories about him and how his smile and personality would light up a room. My life was nothing like this and I often wonder if I could’ve been as selfless as he was and “grinded with a smile” if I was working in a steel-mill!

JOE ON THE HOT SEAT

What is your perfect pizza?

SPIVAK: Anything as long as it’s deep dish!

All time favorite movie?

SPIVAK: The Other Guys

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

SPIVAK: Chick-fil-a

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

SPIVAK: Northwestern Wildcats (any sport)

What is the most used app on your phone?

SPIVAK: Instagram

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.”