Chapter Update: Florida State pulls off big-time upset and three other chapter schools pick up Week 6 wins


For the first time in more than a half century an unranked Florida State team beat a top-five ranked team in Doak Campbell Stadium with a narrow victory over North Carolina. The last time it happened was October 16, 1965 when the Seminoles recorded a 10-3 win over No. 5 Georgia.

The upset provided Mike Norvell his first ACC victory as the Florida State head coach. The Seminoles’ last victory over a top-five team came in 2014 when they edged Notre Dame.

Quarterback Jordan Travis completed only eight passes, but finished with 191 yards through the air to average nearly 24 yard per completion. He also rushed 16 times for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Florida State also blocked a pair of punts in the first quarter and now leads the nation in blocked kicks with five.

Florida State Chapter President, linebacker DeCalon Brooks, scooped up a blocked punt on the first drive of the game and returned it 18 yards to set up FSU’s first touchdown. Fellow FSU Chapter Leader, wide receiver Keyshawn Helton, had two catches for 43 yards.

Clemson: The Tigers scored a school record 52 points in the first half to extend its road winning streak to 14 games with a victory over fellow Uplifting Athletes Chapter Georgia Tech. The previous mark for points in a half was 49 against Wake Forest in 1981. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence became only the second quarterback in school history to throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns in a road game. Lawrence joins Tajh Boyd, who did it twice – once in 2012 and another time in 2013. Clemson Chapter President, punter Will Spiers, averaged 50.7 yards on three punts. The senior also made a late cameo appearance at quarterback for the Tigers, completing 2 of 3 passes for 13 yards.

Notre Dame: Sophomore running back Kyren Williams posted his third consecutive 100-yard game to help the No. 4 ranked Fighting Irish edge Louisville to remain unbeaten. Williams finished with 127 yards on 25 carries. Louisville came into this contest averaging nearly 425 yards a game offensively, but an Irish defense that surrendered fewer than 12 points a game on average held the Cardinals to a season-low 219 yards and seven points. Notre Dame Chapter President, linebacker Drew White, finished with three tackles including a tackle for a loss.

NC State: The Wolfpack trailed by six at halftime, but used a strong defensive effort in the second half to roll past Duke at home. NC State outscored the Blue Devils 17-0 in the second half. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Payton Wilson had a pair of interceptions to become the first Wolfpack linebacker with a pair of interceptions in the same contest since Jerod Fernanez picked off No. 1 ranked Florida State twice in the 2014 matchup. Wilson also finished with a team-high 19 tackles in the victory over Duke, the most tackles for a Pack player since Earl Wolff had 19 vs. Clemson in 2012.

Syracuse: Back-up quarterback Rex Culpepper, playing in place of injured starter Tommy DeVito, threw three touchdown passes and running back Sean Tucker notched his second 100-yard game of the season in a home loss to Liberty. Former Syracuse Chapter Leader, punter Nolan Cooney, averaged 46.5 yards per punt and he dropped all six of his punts inside the 20-yard line.

Joshua Eargle, the 2019 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion, stood in for Kansas’ Les Miles Saturday at West Virginia as the Jayhawks acting head coach. Miles was unable to make the trip to Morgantown after testing positive for COVID-19. Eargle won the award for his inspiring efforts to advance support and awareness for his daughter’s battle with an ultra rare disease.
Each week during the college football season we will feature a player who is an officer for an Uplifting Athletes Chapter. This week we feature Western Michigan linebacker and Chapter President Zaire Barnes.

Meet Uplifting Athletes 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team member Antwan Dixon from Kent State University


Starting this season, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifted to a team concept in order to provide a platform to recognize all the qualified leaders that have made a significant and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. The Rare Disease Champion Team ensures all the inspiring rare disease stories of qualified leaders in college football are shared and celebrated. Uplifting Athletes will honor the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in Atlantic City and at the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft in Philadelphia March 6 and 7, respectively.

Antwan Dixon

University: Kent State University

Vitals: 5-8, 180-pound, redshirt junior, wide receiver

Quick Hits: The native of Florida was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder aplastic anemia in high school, but continued to play football until 2016 when his rare diagnosis took a turn for the worse. He was forced to leave school, received a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his father and spent nearly 36 months away from the game before he was cleared to return in 2018. Antwan has appeared in every game the last two seasons for Kent State and was inspired to use his voice and platform to help others.  So, he took a leadership role and started the Kent State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. During his comeback season in 2018, Antwan was recognized as a Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year and the Columbus Touchdown Club Male Athlete of the Year.

INSIDE THE STORY

Antwan is adamant about how his battles with the rare blood disorder, aplastic anemia, turned his life upside down.

He was diagnosed with the rare disease in high school, but it wasn’t until after his freshman year in college that his health took a serious downward spiral and became critical and life threatening.

Antwan loved playing football and was motivated to be the very best at his craft. He remained a very committed and focused athlete who has NFL dreams and aspirations.

During his 30 months away from Kent State, while battling for his life, Antwan realized he was lost in his day-to-day world and blinded by his ambitions around football.   This is when he discovered a whole other person he had no idea existed.

His relationship with his father was always solid. And it became an even stronger bond when his father donated his bone marrow for the life-saving transplant Antwan needed. But during his lowest points physically, he discovered a new-found bond with his mom and brother that would never have developed had he not taken a sudden and drastic turn for the worse.

“Getting sick was such a blessing for me. I saw life from a different standpoint. I’ve made so many life memories since I got sick,” Antwan said. “I built a better relationship with my little brother. We were always good, but we were not tight until I got sick. He saw life differently … I saw life from a different standpoint. Same with my Mom. I was always tight with my Dad, but my Mom was a rock for me. Now we are super tight, too. Out of all the struggles I went through came a new life.”

And a new perspective for Antwan. During his two years away from Kent State and playing football, getting healthy and back on the field was a very powerful motivator. It was the fuel that drove him. At the same time, though, Antwan also discovered being a football player had consumed his identity.

He still has the dream to play in the NFL and is driven to take his very best shot. But that’s just one facet of Antwan the person.

Inspired by his high school guidance counselor, Antwan wants to mentor kids in the future. He enjoys serving and helping others by giving back. Not only is he involved with Uplifting Athletes, but he also visits an elementary school in town to spend time with the kids to serve as an example and mentor. He volunteers with Habitat For Humanity and tries to take advantage of every community service opportunity presented to the football team.

“Football is not my Plan A. I’ve always had a dream of playing in the NFL. I’m not giving up that dream. But there are a lot of things I want to do to help people in this world,” Antwan said. “I’m coming back to school to get my masters degree in counseling. I want to help other people. That motivates me. Whether its kids, people with blood disorders or cancer … whatever. I want to help people who are struggling.”

THE RARE JOURNEY

In 2013, after his sophomore year of high school, Antwan knew something wasn’t right. He struggled physically during track season and his originally diagnosed sinus infection was not going away.

Further tests revealed the three-sport athlete who was a star on the football field had aplastic anemia – a rare autoimmune disease in which the body fails to produce blood cells in sufficient numbers. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow by stem cells that reside there. Aplastic anaemia causes a deficiency of all blood cell types: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

His initial treatment protocol was working and despite missing his junior season of football, he returned to play basketball and run track. And Antwan played all three sports his senior year.

He received a scholarship offer to Kent State University and, once he arrived on campus in Ohio, was an impact player right away as a true freshman.

Following his first collegiate season in 2015, Antwan had a big-time setback and fell very ill again so he left Ohio and returned home to Florida. His doctors put him on the same treatment protocol that was successful the first time. Only this time it didn’t work.

Antwan needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant to survive. He lost nearly 50 pounds, spent almost all of 2017 in and out of hospitals before his father, Anthony, was matched and Antwan received his transplant.

After nearly 30 months away from Kent State, Antwan returned to school, but the scholarship offer that his head coach guaranteed would be waiting for him was off the table. The university had made a change and when Antwan returned to Ohio in early 2018, the entire coaching staff was new.

He would be given an opportunity to prove himself, but there were no guarantees of a scholarship. That’s all Antwan needed to hear. After being cleared by four doctors to make a return to the field, Antwan not only earned his scholarship back, he became a starting wide receiver right away.

In his first game back after missing the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons, Antwan caught a touchdown pass for the Golden Flashes. And he has played in every single game since and played a major role in Kent State winning its first bowl game in school history to close out a memorable 2019 season.

Right now Antwan is healthy and strong. But he knows his battle with aplastic anemia is not a done deal. The rare disease could return at any time.

WHAT THEY SAID“Being a survivor means beating the odds. There’s not a big chunk of people that survive this blood disorder. There’s not a lot of people who make it out of my hometown. Just to be able to survive the odds and be different. That’s what being a survivor means to me. My mom put a Superman “S” in front of it because she says I’m her Superhero. Being a survivor has a very special meaning to me for sure.” – Antwan Dixon

Meet Uplifting Athletes 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team member Sam Heckel from Syracuse University


Starting this season, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifted to a team concept in order to provide a platform to recognize all the qualified leaders that have made a significant and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. The Rare Disease Champion Team ensures all the inspiring rare disease stories of qualified leaders in college football are shared and celebrated. Uplifting Athletes will honor the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in Atlantic City and at the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft in Philadelphia March 6 and 7, respectively.

Sam Heckel

University: Syracuse University

Vitals: 6-4, 280-pound, redshirt junior, offensive line

Quick Hits: A native of Wisconsin, Sam lives with congenital thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare blood disorder that does not allow for the production of the ADAMTS13 enzyme, which breaks down large proteins. In order to help his body manage this rare disease, he must undergo 14-20 hours of plasmatherapy every two weeks, including during the football season. When he arrived on campus, Sam learned about the strong tradition of leadership within the Syracuse Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and, being a rare disease patient himself, the cause had purpose and special meaning to him. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and 2019 and has been the Syracuse Chapter President the past two years. A full-time starter in 2017 on the Orange offensive line, Sam rotated as the sixth man in 2018 and played in every game. This season he earned the job as the starting center before injuries forced him to the sideline early in the year.

INSIDE THE STORY

From the time he nearly died while in elementary school because doctors struggled to diagnose his rare disease, Sam has faced long odds as an athlete.

His TPP diagnosis would require monthly treatments for the rest of his life.  At one point he wasn’t sure doctors would even allow him to play contact sports and Sam was always balancing his medical condition with being an elite athlete.

His dream to be a Division 1 college football player drove Sam on the field, in the classroom and at the hospital. With the help of a strong support team, led by his family, a scholarship to Syracuse allowed him to realize his dream.

The demands of being a student-athlete kept Sam inside that bubble of structure and routines he already was familiar with. Practices, workouts, meetings, classes and studying – the routine of it all was very comfortable to Sam.

“It’s almost a miracle that I got to be a college football player and am living my dream,” Sam said. “All throughout my life I’ve had to rely on other people … my parents, doctors, trainers. Whenever I wanted to do something, I had to rely on other people so much.”

It took a strong and dedicated support team around Sam just to make it to Syracuse, and once that circle of trust expanded in college, it was easy for him to find success.

He was a starter sooner than later for the Orange along the offensive line. Sam filled in at a couple spots up front in 2018 and became an experienced veteran. Coming out of camp prior to the 2019 season he was named the starting center. Once again Sam overcame the odds and was poised to take that next step as a football player.

In the first game of the season, Sam suffered his third concussion in 13 months. And the odds were simply too stacked against him with three head injuries in such a short period of time.

He worked through the recovery protocol as instructed, continued to stay involved with the team and held out hope of once again stepping on the field inside the dome at Syracuse to play the game he dearly loves.

The biggest challenge in his life, overcoming his rare blood disorder to play football, didn’t keep him off the field. Three concussions did, though.

Sam was medically disqualified from ever playing football again following the 2019 season. It was a sudden end he admits, but also said it took him about a minute to accept the diagnosis.

“Being a collegiate athlete, everyone knows it’s going to come to an end. I just didn’t know it was last season. The suddenness of it, that was the harder part for me,” Sam said. “It was a difficult transition for sure, having that taken away from you. I wasn’t used to being a non-athlete.”

Sam is still adjusting to life as a student instead of a student-athlete. He plans to remain involved with the team, helping out the younger players and doing what he can to make a positive contribution to the football team. It’s what he worked so hard to do on the field. Now he’s re-directing that same passion and energy in another direction.

Despite being medically disqualified, Sam will remain on scholarship at Syracuse. He will receive his undergraduate degree in the spring, stay involved with the team in 2020 and begin work on his Master’s degree.

“I still feel like I’m still trying to grasp who I am outside of being a football player,” Sam said. “I’m figuring out it’s all about re-directing your energy as a person. Now I can re-direct my energy in different directions. I have time, and I get to choose a little more what I had to put my energy toward.

“I’m more independent and rely on myself more, and I’m enjoying it. Football and Syracuse gave me everything I ever needed and wanted. I’m so grateful for that. That’s why I feel I have to stay involved and give back.”

THE RARE JOURNEY

Sam was born with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare blood disorder that does not allow for the production of the ADAMTS13 enzyme, which breaks down large proteins.

Early in his life, obtaining an accurate diagnosis was difficult and once doctors were able to pinpoint his rare disease, coming up with a functional treatment protocol proved tricky as well.

For most of his life, Sam received 14-20 hours of plasmatherapy every three weeks. It was a day-long process that also came with a couple days of recovery to feel normal. Despite nearly dying when he was in elementary school, Sam’s treatment allows him to live a normal life.

He was a star offensive lineman during his high school days at Waukesha West in Wisconsin and that landed him a scholarship offer from Syracuse.

Playing major college football was always the pie-in-the-sky dream for Sam and getting recruited to upstate New York allowed him to fulfill that life-long goal.

As a kid growing up, despite his rare blood disorder, Sam wanted to be on a level playing field with his peers. He didn’t want to be known as the football player who also had a rare disease. So he was extremely hesitant about sharing his journey.

That changed when he arrived at Syracuse.

Once on campus, Sam learned about the strong tradition of leadership within the Syracuse Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and, being a rare disease patient himself, the cause had purpose and special meaning to him.

Still reluctant to talk about his rare diagnosis because he preferred to let his play on the field speak for itself, Sam soon discovered he had a story to share that needed to be shared. Inspired by his work as a leader of the Syracuse Chapter, Sam learned his voice is strong and his platform as a college football athlete is significant.

WHAT THEY SAID

“I feel like with the position I was in with Uplifting Athletes, I realized there are some kids out there right now that are in the same shoes I was in growing up. And if what I went through can help them … give them some hope in any way and let them know they can still have hope no matter what they are going through, they need to know that. You can’t let a health issue determine what you are going to do with the rest of your life. I know the Rare Disease Community doesn’t have a lot of athletes out there, and I’m one of them. So I had to do what I could to help.” – Sam Heckel

Meet Uplifting Athletes 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team member Josh Paschal from University of Kentucky


Starting this season, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifted to a team concept in order to provide a platform to recognize all the qualified leaders that have made a significant and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. The Rare Disease Champion Team ensures all the inspiring rare disease stories of qualified leaders in college football are shared and celebrated. Uplifting Athletes will honor the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in Atlantic City and at the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft in Philadelphia March 6 and 7, respectively.

Josh Paschal

University: University of Kentucky

Vitals: 6-3, 285-pound, redshirt junior, defensive end

Quick Hits: Diagnosed with a rare malignant melanoma on the bottom of his right foot in July of 2018, the Wildcats’ defensive standout faced a new battle. Josh endured four surgeries and a year-long treatment protocol of monthly immunotherapy treatments. He missed most of the 2018 season, but he found the strength to return for the final three games. The guy teammates call the “heartbeat of the team” and who was elected team captain by his peers completed his treatments in August of 2019 and was a full-time starter last season.

INSIDE THE STORY

Before he knew anything about what was going on in his foot, before he learned of his diagnosis with a rare malignant melanoma, the University of Kentucky defensive standout was already exploring a new part of his life.

Josh was becoming fully in touch with his spiritual side absent of a life crisis. He found strength and purpose in being a believer.

Shortly before finding out the nagging stinging he noticed in his foot was a serious problem, Josh made a commitment to turn his life over to Christ.

Now on the other side of his diagnosis, back to playing the game he loves for the Kentucky Wildcats and chasing his NFL dream, Josh knows the timing of his faith commitment was no coincidence.

“It was only a couple months before my diagnosis that I made the decision to turn my life over to Christ,” Josh said. “I just remember hearing a testimony about how the hardest thing we can do as believers is giving up ourselves wholly to Christ. After that was the first time I put my full trust in him.

“Then I was told I had cancer. I believed I would get through it, though. I knew it was something that to give me an opportunity to share his Kingdom.”

Josh credits his faith with giving him the strength to keep everything that was going on with his diagnosis in perspective. He battled through several surgeries and setbacks trusting the plan was not his own, but rather God’s plan for him.

And it changed him on several fronts. He became keenly aware of how much emphasis he was putting on being a football player. His perspective on the game and how he saw life altered.

Fortunately when he returned to the field, he was the same player as before his diagnosis. He just saw and approached almost everything he did with a slightly different lens.

“Before all this, I wasn’t the type of guy to share much. Once I had football taken away from me, my love for the game changed. I almost had it taken away from me, and that’s something I never experienced,” Josh said. “When it came back it was the same in many ways, but also very different. I appreciate getting up early to work out, doing extra drills and sprints. I look at film and realize how far I’ve come along on the journey. We look at big picture a lot as players, but I now enjoy the journey of each day.”

THE RARE JOURNEY

Late in 2017 and into the early part of 2018, Josh noticed a small spot on the bottom of his foot. He told the University of Kentucky trainers about it and they told Josh they would keep an eye on it over the next couple of months.

The pain wasn’t obvious. Occasionally, when he would run and hit the right spot with his foot, he would notice a little sting. In the life of an elite football athlete, a small spot on the bottom of your foot is not real cause for concern.

During the summer of 2018 – prior to Josh’s redshirt sophomore season – he was sent to see a podiatrist about the spot on his foot that wasn’t going away. The podiatrist sent him to a dermatologist who removed the spot surgically and told Josh he would have it tested.

The only thought going through Josh’s mind at the time was how fast can he get out of the walking boot he was in and to return to summer workouts full-time.

When he returned to see the dermatologist for his follow-up and hopefully to remove the walking boot, the news was not good.

He was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in his foot and it was deep enough that the doctors were concerned about it traveling to other parts of his body.

“When I first found out I was shocked,” Josh said. “I was all excited for the follow-up appointment to get out of my walking boot and go back to work.”

Football was immediately put on hold that August day. He quickly met his oncologist and started monthly immunotherapy treatments that would take a full year to complete.

And he had follow-up surgeries in order to make sure the melanoma had not spread. Josh had procedures on his groin, shin and another one on his foot to be safe.

“The most consistent thought (in my head) I had was not to trust my plan and trust God’s plan,” Josh said. My family, parents, sister and brother, they all rallied around me and kept me strong. What went through my head the most was not to be so worried about my plan but to follow God’s plan.”

As a testament to his determination, Josh made a comeback before the end of the 2018 season – only three months after his diagnosis. He played in Kentucky’s final three games and was named Southeastern Conference (SEC) Co-Defensive Player of the Week following the game against Middle Tennessee.

He continued his monthly treatments throughout the offseason and just prior to the 2019 season he completed his treatment protocol.

Josh started 13 games for the Wildcats this past season, notching 34 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 3 pass break-ups and forced four fumbles.

“Coming back (in 2019) and going through the season, I noticed there was a time before this where I would say I was grateful for everything. But now I know what that really means,” Josh said. “I was so humbled by the small things. I believe going through this is a big part of my journey. It’s helping me connect with other people I never would have talked to. I get to speak at different events and share my testimony. We are here to serve others and I believe that’s what I’m doing when I step on the field.”

WHAT THEY SAID

“When you go through something like that, there are a lot of thoughts racing through your head. You don’t think about who is going to be there for you. But you learn all those thoughts in your head and who’s going to be there for you go hand in hand. It surprised me, but at the same time it didn’t. Because when I look back at it, I see a lot of family. I never felt alone.” – Josh Paschal

Meet Uplifting Athletes 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team member George Hatalowich from Davidson College


Starting this season, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifted to a team concept in order to provide a platform to recognize all the qualified leaders that have made a significant and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. The Rare Disease Champion Team ensures all the inspiring rare disease stories of qualified leaders in college football are shared and celebrated. Uplifting Athletes will honor the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in Atlantic City and at the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft in Philadelphia March 6 and 7, respectively.

George Hatalowich

University: Davidson College

Vitals: 5-11, 201-pound, senior, linebacker

Quick Hits: George’s passion for and commitment to the rare disease cause led him to start an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Davidson College as a junior in 2018. He worked tirelessly to get the chapter started and engage his teammates in supporting the cause. Under George’s leadership, the Davidson Chapter held Lift For Life events and participated in Touchdown Pledge Drive in 2018 and 2019 and hosted the first Uplifting Experience at Davidson. These efforts led to the fourth highest fundraising total for a new chapter in Uplifting Athletes history and provided immeasurable inspiration for the Rare Disease Community.

INSIDE THE STORY

Personal relationships are a source of strength and have always inspired George.

George is one of those people with a personality whose passion and energy can light up a room. And nothing moves the native of Pennsylvania more than serving and helping others.

The credit for his commitment to others goes to his parents according to George. Even the best teachers know, though, having a prize pupil makes it a lot easier.

From as long back as he can remember, being a part of something bigger than yourself and making a commitment to help others was a cornerstone of growing up in the Hatalowich household.

His first taste of service in high school – the Special Olympics Buddy Program – was an eye opening experience for George. Naturally, he was pumped to have the opportunity to mentor and help somebody else. What he soon discovered, though, was that the relationship he struck up with his buddy was just as meaningful to him.

“It was something, looking back now, I never really expected. I had fully embraced the idea of service and being a part of something bigger and more important than myself,” George said. “What I discovered was the person or organization I was supposed to be serving ended up serving me. It was a two-way street and those relationships had a profound impact on me.”

As opportunities presented themselves during his high school years, George couldn’t help himself. He had the service to others bug and became a mentor, tutor and counselor for a variety of organizations.

The opportunity to play football in college was instrumental in shaping George’s decision where he would continue his career as a student-athlete. He saw opportunity seven hours from home in North Carolina.

“It was scary going away from home seven hours, not even having any mutual connections of any kind,” George said. “When I got there I wanted to stay true to who I was and what was important to me in high school. I wanted to keep the values I learned in high school.”

College campuses offer a wealth of opportunities to help and serve others. But George was looking to leave his own mark at Davidson.

Already armed with the knowledge of how a rare disease can impact a family through his good friendship with a high school teammate whose uncle battled ALS and whose father also was his high school head coach, George saw an opportunity through the Davidson football program and Uplifting Athletes.

After his sophomore season, George and Wildcats teammate Kevin Stipe joined forces to launch an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Davidson College.

The rare disease cause is extremely important to George and seeing the opportunity to include the entire team in supporting their cause drove the duo to leave no stone unturned when it came to making this happen.

“The impact rare diseases have on families was something I experienced first-hand. It impacted me. I understood the work and attention this underserved community needs,” George said. “Not just the patient is impacted. The whole family is impacted and that stuck with me and gave me the motivation to get Davidson on board as a chapter.”

THE RARE JOURNEY

A close relationship with the Klock family growing up gave George unique insight into what a rare disease, in this case ALS, can do to a family.

He took that experience with him to college and in late 2017 after his sophomore season the linebacker saw an opportunity to have an impact on the entire Rare Disease Community through starting an Uplifting Athletes Chapter.

Starting anything from the ground up always has its challenges, but George and his Davidson Chapter co-founder Kevin Stipe believed the Wildcats’ program was more than ready to make an impact.

So in 2018, after attending their first Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in January of that year, Kevin and George set off on their adventure and launched the Davidson Chapter.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was work, but we had so much support and help. Trey Klock was a mentor to me growing up and I saw what his family went through with ALS and how it impacted them. And I knew he was working with Uplifting Athletes at Georgia Tech and then Northwestern. So he was an outstanding resource,” George said. “I have come to know the staff at Uplifting Athletes and their passion. The relationships I’ve built with them are long-term relationships and I’m grateful for that. I’m the one who is blessed to have had this opportunity.”

Thanks to the leadership of George and Kevin, the Davidson Chapter held Lift For Life events and participated in Touchdown Pledge Drive each of the last two years and hosted the first Uplifting Experience at Davidson. These efforts led to the fourth highest fundraising total for a new chapter in Uplifting Athletes history.

A leader for the Wildcats both on and off the field, George received one of the highest honors in college football for work off the field late in his senior season.  Chosen from a nomination pool that exceeded more than 135 players, George was one of 22 individuals honored as part of the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team was established in 1991 to recognize a select group of college football players who have made a commitment to service and enriching the lives of others. 

“Being chosen for that meant a lot. At the same time it represented a lot more than me. It represented my teammates, coaches and family,” George said. “To make real change in anything you do, you also need a strong team around you. Kevin and I have been talking about and working on getting this chapter started for three years. I could not have done it without him. Being chosen represented a lot more than just me.”

WHAT THEY SAID

“The biggest thing about Davidson College and Davidson football it attracts a certain type of person. A lot of them are passionate and are really determined individuals. When we started the chapter we were able to lay out why this was important and how we are going to do it. We told them we believe our team can make an impact. All we had to do was start a fire and the guys really lit it up.” – George Hatalowich

Meet Uplifting Athletes 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team member Anthony Lotti from University of Pennsylvania


Starting this season, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifted to a team concept in order to provide a platform to recognize all the qualified leaders that have made a significant and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. The Rare Disease Champion Team ensures all the inspiring rare disease stories of qualified leaders in college football are shared and celebrated. Uplifting Athletes will honor the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in Atlantic City and at the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft in Philadelphia March 6 and 7, respectively.

Anthony Lotti

University: University of Pennsylvania

Vitals: 6-1, 190-pound, junior, student assistant/manager

Quick Hits: Anthony made the selfless decision to sign up to donate his bone marrow through Penn’s “Be The Match” program. While studying for finals in April of 2019, he found out he was a match with a leukemia patient and he arranged to donate his bone marrow over the summer during a break from football. As Anthony prepared for his bone marrow transplant, he was also recovering from a severe shoulder injury. His plan was to return to the field, but the injury was too severe and resulted in nerve damage that ended his football playing career. He’s still part of the Quakers team, serving as a student assistant coach and sending in defensive signals.

INSIDE THE STORY

The native of Freehold, New Jersey was thinking ahead when it came time to choose a college.

Anthony had a dozen offers to play football from colleges at both the FBS and FCS levels. And football was extremely important to the defensive back who was an all-state star in high school.

He had plenty of options, but in the end, the combination of an Ivy League education and the football program at Penn made it an easy decision for Anthony.

That decision would end up having lift altering ramifications for Anthony on a couple fronts.

Shortly after arriving on campus he learned about the Penn football program’s commitment to the “Be The Match” bone marrow transplant registry. It was such an easy process, as Anthony said, registering was a no-brainer.

And then, in his own words, he kind of forgot about signing up before getting a phone call during finals week in the spring of 2019 while studying in the library.

The call had exquisite timing for Anthony, because he was struggling. Not long before being told he was a match to become a bone marrow transplant donor, the junior found out his football playing days were over.

“Football was part of my life for 12 years. I just loved the game. It was my outlet for everything in my life. And in the blink of an eye it was suddenly gone,” Anthony said. “When I got the call for a match it gave me a new perspective on life. It put me right back on track and my life is going great again.”

During preseason camp prior to the 2018 season, Anthony was vying for playing time as a starting safety for the Quakers defense. Already battling a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Anthony suffered a much larger injury in the same shoulder during practice. He tore his rotator cuff and shattered his scapula (shoulder blade) on the same play and headed for surgery and rehab.

The plan was for him to return to practice during Spring Ball on a limited basis and, once fully recovered, resume vying for playing time at safety. That was the plan, at least. When he started working out to get ready for his return, he noticed severe numbness in his left arm. The diagnosis was that his injury also caused nerve damage and he was told his football playing days were over.

Several weeks later he received the call from Be The Match.

“My dad said something to me that really stood out and has stayed with me,” Anthony said. “He told me that I wouldn’t be part of Be The Match if I didn’t have football. He also told me doing the bone marrow transplant has way more impact than the 12 years you played football.”

Being medically disqualified has not stopped Anthony from staying involved with the football program, though. Last season he served as a student assistant/manager – in his words doing a little bit of anything I can to help out – and plans to do it again for his senior season in 2020.

THE RARE JOURNEY

You have less than a 1 percent chance of being picked to become a bone marrow transplant donor when you sign up for a registry.

Anthony became the fifth Penn football player, the first since 2016, to donate since the Quakers’ football team paired up with Be The Match a dozen years ago.

Be The Match was started by former Villanova Head Football Coach Andy Talley, who has dedicated more than 18 years to raising awareness about the need for marrow donors and increasing the likelihood that all patients receive the life-saving transplant they need. In addition to Penn, more than 100 college football programs participate in the program annually.

More than 18 months after joining the registry, Anthony found out he was a match for a 37-year-old mother who was battling leukemia.

All Anthony could think about was how grateful he was to be able to donate to a mom. He has a strong relationship with his mom and his recipient’s children weighed heavily on his mind as he went through three months of intensive blood tests prior to donating his bone marrow.

“Anybody you can donate too, that’s all you care about when you sign up,” Anthony said. “But being told the patient was a mom and knowing the impact my mom had on me … I wanted her kids to have the same opportunity. Based on her age, they are probably young kids, it was a special moment for me.”

This summer Anthony will find out of his bone marrow donation turned out. The standard buffer for a transplant and success is a year. If it turned out to be a success, he will have the opportunity to meet the mother and her family if they consent.

During the process of getting ready for his donation procedure, Anthony relied on teammate Sam Phillip, who donated after the 2016 football season, for advice.

So when the duo was summoned to what they thought was a Skype interview promoting and talking about Penn football and the Be The Match program, it’s safe to say they were shocked when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suddenly appeared on the screen.

“Yeah that was kind of crazy. We were staring at a blank screen waiting for the interview to start and Roger Goodell sits down,” Anthony said. “It was all very confusing and happened so fast.”

Goodell surprised the duo by announcing they were each receiving tickets to Super Bowl LIV, along with a guest, in Miami as part of the NFL’s commitment to rewarding members of the football community who have performed selfless acts.

 WHAT THEY SAID

“It wasn’t the storybook ending I wanted and pictured for my football career. I envisioned myself playing and winning an Ivy League championship. That wasn’t my lot in life. I’m proud of my football career and I learned a lot about myself as a student-athlete. I wanted to use football to get a great education and that’s why I chose Penn. Not only am I getting a great education, but because I chose Penn, I’ve acquired an invaluable life lesson by becoming a bone marrow transplant donor.” – Anthony Lotti

Meet the 2019 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team


Uplifting Athletes is pleased to announce the 2019 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team.

For 12 years, Uplifting Athletes has recognized a Rare Disease Champion. Starting in 2019, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifts from highlighting an individual leader in college football to a team concept that provides an opportunity to recognize leaders in college football that have made a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. 

The five members of the 2019 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion team are: Kent State wide receiver Antwan Dixon, Davidson linebacker George Hatalowich, Syracuse offensive lineman Sam Heckel, Penn student assistant Anthony Lotti and Kentucky linebacker Josh Paschal.

Uplifting Athletes couldn’t be more proud to share these inspiring rare disease stories of leaders in college football.

“We feel strongly that our obligation to the Rare Disease Community is to share the powerful and compelling stories of people inside college football who have lived the rare disease journey, as patients and advocates,” Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long said. “I believe this will be the start of a tradition recognizing those in college football who are inspiring, serving and supporting those who need it the most.”

The Rare Disease Champion Team powered by Sanofi Genzyme is an Uplifting Athletes awareness campaign that is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA). The Rare Disease Champion Team will be celebrated at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. on March 6, 2020 and at Uplifting Athletes’ Young Investigator Draft at Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia March 7, 2020.

Nominees for the award were solicited from any NCAA FBS, FCS, Division II or Division III institution or college football program nationwide.

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

Former Austin Peay State University Offensive Coordinator and current University of Kansas Assistant Coach Joshua Eargle was honored as the winner of the Rare Disease Champion Award last year.

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

Kent State University football program joins Uplifting Athletes team and schedules inaugural Lift For Life event


Uplifting Athletes is pleased to have Kent State University join the 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.

Today, the challenges faced by the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. The Kent State 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 Kent State Football Chapter of Uplifting Athletes will hold its inaugural Lift For Life to support the Rare Disease Community on Friday, July 12th.

Lift For Life is the signature fundraising event for the Uplifting Athletes nationwide network of chapters.

“Having the opportunity to give back to others as a member of the Rare Disease Community myself is very important to me,” Kent State Chapter President and Golden Flashes wide receiver Antwan Dixon said. “Also, having my teammates and coaches being all in so that we can raise money for raise disease patients is such a blessing. We are all proud to be part of a team that is working so hard to Tackle Rare Diseases.”

The 2019 Kent State Chapter Lift For Life will be a competition featuring a 225-pound bench press competition between the Golden Flashes offense and defense. The Kent State Lift For Life is a private event this year.

Fans and supporters can select to support either the offense or defense and pledge for the average number of bench press repetitions they put up. So choose one side of the ball and back that team by visiting the Kent State Lift For Life fundraising page and pledging now! You can also make a flat donation to Lift For Life.

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

Uplifting Athletes is pleased to welcome Kent State University to its nationwide network of chapters led by college football student-athletes.

The Kent State football program was inspired to help Tackle Rare Diseases by Golden Flashes wide receiver Antwan Dixon, who returned to the field in 2019 after a 36-month absence while battling the rare blood disorder aplastic anemia.

Dixon was a finalist for the 11th Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award. The 2019 Lift For Life is the first opportunity for the Kent State Chapter support the Rare Disease Community.

Please support the Kent State Chapter and help the Golden Flashes reach their impressive $2,000 team Lift For Life goal.

Former Illinois Chapter President Nick Allegretti awarded prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor


September 2 2017 Illinois vs Ball State Football. Home Opener

Former University of Illinois star offensive lineman Nick Allegretti was awarded the prestigious Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor recently as part of the annual Fighting Illini Oskee Awards celebration.

This year marks the 105th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, awarded annually to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each member institution who has demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career. The conference’s most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence.

Allegretti was a two-time captain and finished his football career with 36 consecutive starts while playing nearly every snap on the offensive line over the last two seasons.

He was graded as the third-best offensive guard in the nation in 2018 by Pro Football Focus, allowing just one QB hit and zero sacks on the season while anchoring an offensive line that paved the way for the nation’s 12th-ranked rushing offense. PFF graded him as the No. 6 run-blocking guard and the No. 11 pass-blocking guard in the nation. 

Off the field, he was the team leader for all community service events throughout his career and served as Illinois’ Uplifting Athletes Chapter President the past two years, raising more than $88,000 to support the Rare Disease Community through the team’s annual Lift for Life event. He has been a candidate for many community services awards, including 2018 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award (Finalist), 2018 Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year (semifinalist), 2018 Campbell Trophy (semifinalist) and 2018 Senior CLASS Award candidate. 

Allegretti earned a Bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the Gies College of Business in December 2017 (3.56 cumulative GPA) and will earn a Master’s degree in Recreation, Sport & Tourism in May 2019 (3.49 cumulative GPA). 

“Few student-athletes garner as much respect from their peers and coaches as Nick has over the last five years,” said Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith, the Illinois skipper for Allegretti’s final three seasons. “Nick exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete in today’s environment.

“If you are fortunate enough to coach long enough, you might get the chance to coach one or two student-athletes with Nick’s credentials on and off the field. I am grateful to be in the right place at the right time to catch him during his career at the University of Illinois.”

Rare Disease Community takes over Lincoln Financial Field at 2nd Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft


2019 Young Investigator Draft grant recipients (left to right): Dr. Alberto Japp, Dr. Eugene Hwang, Dr. Shana McCormack, Dr. Elizabeth Harrington, Dr. Brian Sworder and Dr. Brenda Gallie.

Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia experienced a Rare Disease Community takeover Saturday night when Uplifting Athletes hosted its 2nd Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring.

And the spotlight at The Linc – home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles – was on the six rare disease research grant recipients drafted by our priority partners to become part of the Uplifting Athletes team.

“We could not of been more excited how the event came together, and what an amazing turnout we had for year two of this event,” Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long said. “We take pride in our ability to bring together doctors, patients, young investigative researchers, industry partners, rare disease advocates and athletes all together in one room. Each group was well represented.”

Similar to the NFL Draft where teams select the top young prospects they feel can make the most impact on their future, at the Young Investigator Draft, Uplifting Athletes celebrated its 2019 draft class in five different rare disease categories.

The evening started with a social hour that included one-of-a-kind stadium tours of Lincoln Financial Field.

Then it was time to kick off the 2019 Young Investigator Draft and hand out some authentic draft jerseys to research scientists in five rare disease categories: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.

The 2019 Young Investigator Draft class includes Dr. Shana McCormack, Dr. Elizabeth Harrington, Dr. Alberto Japp, Dr. Eugene Hwang and Dr. Brian Sworder.

Several of the grant recipients said the process of being drafted was a “first” for them and despite being briefed and told how the evening would unfold they said there were no words that fully prepared them for the energy and excitement the evening created.

Young Investigator Draft grants are intended to inspire collaborative and translational research that will benefit the entire Rare Disease Community. The Young Investigator Draft stage provided each doctor a platform to educate and inspire by sharing their research along with its impact on the Rare Disease Community.

The drafted grant recipients were chosen by this year’s priority partners: Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, Leukemia Lymphoma Society and Project ALS.

Each priority partner had a guest presenter make the selection. The 2019 list of guest presenters included Kyle Bryant, BethAnn Telford, Dr. David Fajgenbaum, Malik Turner and Adam Breneman.

After draft emcee Stephanie Stahl, a health reporter for media sponsor CBS 3 of Philadelphia, closed the draft it was time for a couple special presentations.

Dr. Brenda Gallie of Children’s Hospital in Toronto received the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft Collaborative Leadership Award for her decades of commitment to eradicating the rare eye disease retinoblastoma.

She was introduced via video by former USC long snapper and 2016 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award winner Jake Olson, who is legally blind after losing both is eyes to retinoblastoma.

To bring down the curtain on the evening, the 11th winner of the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award, University of Kansas football coach Joshua Eargle, took the stage and delivered a moving and inspirational speech.

Coach Eargle shared the story of his family and their rare disease journey with their daughter Landrey. For nearly six years the Eargle’s stayed quiet about their struggles with the extremely rare diagnosis for Landry.

After sharing their story publicly for the first time in 2019, doors and avenues have opened they never imagined. This has inspired Coach Eargle and his wife Kristen and made them even stronger advocates for the Rare Disease Community.

Uplifting Athletes would like to thank everyone who attended our 2nd Young Investigator Draft and a special thanks to all of our sponsors for making this unique approach to rare disease research possible.

In addition to CSL Behring as our presenting sponsor, Sanofi Genzyme, Horizon, PRA Health Sciences, Retrophin, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Spark Therapeutics, Strongbridge BioPharama, Amicus Therapeutics, We Work For Health (WWFH) and Ultragenyx all contributed to the success of the 2019 Young Investigator Draft.

“It took a lot of teammates who believe in the mission of Uplifting Athletes and have passion for the rare disease cause to make all this happen,” Long said. “The fact that our priority partners joined us in co-funding each grant recipient so that we could direct more than $120,000 directly to the young investigator rare disease researchers to be used at their discretion to support their research is a game changer.”