32 players from 2019 Uplifting Athletes Reps For Rare Diseases team join the NFL ranks


Earlier this year, Uplifting Athletes partnered with 56 NFL prospects to give them their first opportunity to share their new platform as professional athletes to inspire others with hope and to support the Rare Disease Community.

When the stakes were the highest in their football lives, these NFL prospects made a choice to pledge their performance at either the NFL Combine or their individual NFL Pro Day workouts to raise awareness and funds in support of Uplifting Athletes’ mission.

Of the 56 NFL prospects who participated in the Uplifting Athletes 2019 Reps For Rare Diseases campaign, we are excited to share that 32 were either drafted or signed free agent contracts and are taking that next step, continuing their football career in the NFL.

Quite a feat considering less than 1 percent of high school football players actually go on to sign a professional NFL contract.  For those who climb to the top of the football ladder and take that next  step from NFL prospect to being drafted or signed by an NFL team, they are in rare air.

“Congratulations to each and every one of these men for earning this rare opportunity,” said Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett, who played in the NFL. “To those that give, much is received. It is fitting that the men who took the time to help those affected by rare diseases at such a pivotal time in their athletic careers get the opportunity to join a rare fraternity of men to sign an NFL contract after college.

“We wish each and every one of you good health, great success and to always help those in need with the platform bestowed upon you.”

Of the 56 players that took part in the 2019 Reps For Rare Diseases campaign this past March, 12 of them were drafted and 20 have signed undrafted free agent contracts.

That group includes a pair of first-round picks in defensive lineman Christian Wilkins from Clemson who was drafted No. 13 overall by the Miami Dolphins and former NC State center Garrett Bradbury who was the No. 18 overall selection by the Minnesota Vikings.

The other 10 draft picks from our 2019 Reps For Rare Diseases team include: Miles Boykin from Notre Dame, taken in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens, and Fighting Irish teammates Julian Love and Drue Tranquill who were taken in the fourth round by the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively.

Former Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was taken off the board by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round. A trio of players, Ty Johnson from Maryland to the Detroit Lions, former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley to the Baltimore Ravens and one-time NC State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon to the Washington Redskins, were selected in the sixth round.

Rounding out the 12 draft picks, University of Illinois guard and former Illini Chapter President Nick Allegretti was taken by Kansas City, Nick Scott from Penn State went to the Los Angeles Rams and Syracuse defensive lineman Chris Slayton was picked by the New York Giants. All three were seventh-round selections.

Collectively our 2019 Reps For Rare Diseases team raised nearly $45,000 in support of Uplifting Athletes’ mission and our four programs – Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

Congratulations to all the members of our Reps For Rare Diseases squad that earned an opportunity to compete inside the lines at the highest level.

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.”

Uplifting Athletes’ 10th Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta covered a lot of ground


The essential core of the Uplifting Leaders program is the college football student-athletes that steer our chapters at universities across the country.

This past weekend more than 40 individual leaders from 20 college football programs traveled to Atlanta for the 10th annual Leadership Development Conference.

The three-day conference was hosted by Uplifting Athletes, and run by Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett, a former Penn State Chapter President who attended the inaugural conference in 2010.

“Uplifting Athletes is grateful to be engaged with such enthusiastic student-athletes motivated to leverage their platform for good,” Brackett said. “I am excited to see how this group of student-athletes takes the knowledge gained from the conference and uses the power of sport to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.”

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

Morning sessions covering the four programs were followed by a panel of former college football student-athletes sharing their stories and advice about making the transition from student-athlete to the professional world.

The lively and open discussion was spearheaded by panelists Pat Boyle, Drew Butler, Stephon Morris and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong.

“The conference was a great experience for me to learn more how to utilize my platform to impact the Rare Disease Community,” Penn State Chapter leader Sean Clifford said. “I am glad I had the opportunity to represent Penn State Football and grow as a leader.”

To kick off the afternoon, Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long shared his story about being a rare disease patient and how that shaped him to become a leader, advocate and difference maker for the Rare Disease Community.

Long’s hour-long presentation set the table for a tour of the College Football Hall of Fame and an Uplifting Experience where nearly 20 rare disease patients, caregivers and family members teamed up with the student-athletes.

“For me Leadership Development Conference 2019 was all about the people. You are surrounded with other college football players from all around the country and get to learn about their own connections with rare diseases and how much it affects us all,” Northwestern Chapter leader Joe Spivak said. “And then to be paired with a family going through the fight at the College Football Hall of Fame puts everything in that much more perspective.

“Those interactions, along with all the work with everyone from the Uplifting Athletes staff, showed me the true difference we can make in this community through the power of the sport we are all so blessed to be a part of.”

Gabe Low, a 17-year-old Hawaii native who was born with a rare genetic disorder, took center stage on Sunday to share his story about why he did the 3,500-mile Ride For Rare Diseases and talked about the impact of awareness created by using his platform.

The conference also featured sessions on Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive and next steps moving forward as these leaders prepare for 2019.

“If their attentiveness and commitment at the conference is any sign of what’s to come from this group of leaders … I believe 2019 could be something special,” Brackett said. “Their level of engagement leads me to believe we will see a high level of awareness and fundraising for the Rare Disease Community through Uplifting Athletes chapters across the country.”

Among the 20 schools that were represented in Atlanta, two of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Kent State and New Mexico had student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, Colgate, Davidson, Florida State, Lehigh, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton, Stony Brook, Fordham and Western Michigan were also in attendance.

A special thank you to all our supporters who made this conference possible. With your help, these young men are making a difference in the Rare Disease Community.

Uplifting Athletes to welcome 40-plus college football student-athletes for 10th Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta


ldc 19 graphic

The bedrock of the Uplifting Leaders program at Uplifting Athletes is the college football student-athletes that guide our nationwide network of chapters.

These student-athletes already have the drive and passion to help others and that is why they chose to step up and become chapter leaders to help us serve the Rare Disease Community.

In order to help them become even stronger leaders and advocates, Uplifting Athletes will gather these college football student-athletes together in late January for three days of education, training and networking at the 2019 Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta.

This will be the 10th consecutive year Uplifting Athletes has put together a weekend of intense leadership development and relationship building for current and prospective chapter leaders.

“We are thrilled to host a fantastic group of student-athletes for a three-day conference focused on enhancing life skills, transferable skills recognition, and leadership development through Uplifting Athletes programming,” Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett said. “Our goal is to provide the student-athletes with the skills necessary to returned to campus empowered to make a positive impact on the Rare Disease Community.

This year 40 current football players from 20 universities across the country will travel to Atlanta on Friday, January 25 to kick off a busy weekend of engaging work sessions, networking and relationship building.

Among the 20 schools that will be represented in Atlanta, four of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Kent State and New Mexico have student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, Colgate, Davidson, Florida State, Lehigh, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Illinois, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton, Stony Brook, Fordham and Western Michigan will also be in attendance.

The 2019 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 to interact with local Atlanta area 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.

For Seattle Seahawks WR Malik Turner the rare disease cause is personal


Seattle Seahawks rookie wide receiver Malik Turner is passionate about the rare disease cause.

He took part in Lift For Life as a member of the Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. Turner also supported his cause by participating in the Uplifting Athletes Reps For Rare Diseases campaign for his NFL Pro Day.

It was during his Reps For Rare Diseases campaign that Turner made the connection that one of his University of Illinois classmates, Holt Erikson, was a rare disease patient. Once he learned more about Holt’s story, Turner felt a deeper connection to his friend.  The rare disease cause became personal.

“What draws me closer to the rare disease cause is personally connecting with someone that has gone through the struggle,” Turner said. “That definitely drew me closer to it.”

MALIK 2

 

That deep and personal relationship moved Turner to do everything in his power to use his platform as an elite athlete to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.

And Turner was not going to let an injury derail his commitment to making a difference for the Rare Disease Community.

Two weeks prior to his Pro Day workout Turner suffered a fracture in his foot. That injury meant he would not be able to participate in the biggest workout of his life.

Turner felt compelled, though, to honor his commitment to the rare disease cause and on his Pro Day still participated in the bench press. With his friend Holt on his mind, Turner went out and beat his bench press goal by one repetition despite being injured.

MALIK 1When he made it to the NFL, Turner wanted to continue that deeply personal 1-on-1 relationship with those battling rare diseases.

Once Turner secured a spot on the Seahawks roster, he almost immediately started looking for ways to do even more to support his cause. Working together, Turner and Uplifting Athletes teamed up to host an Uplifting Experience for a rare disease patient family in the greater Seattle area.

Earlier this month Turner hosted ADNP patient Tony Sermone, his twin brother Rocco and Tony’s parents, Sandra and Rich at the Seattle Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center for several hours.

They toured the Seahawks locker room, interacted with other Seattle players, worked out on the practice field together and Turner walked them through a day in the life of an NFL player.

It was during this experience that Turner was able to show his passion for the rare disease cause – unveiling the cleats he will wear for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign during this Sunday’s game at home against San Francisco.

MALIK FAMILY GAME

 

Above the Seattle skyline painted on the on the back of his right cleat, are the initials “T” and “S” in Tony’s honor. The initials “H” and “E” are on the back of left cleat above the block “I” University Illinois logo to honor Holt.

“I needed to be more aware of exactly what rare means and how it’s not funded and needs more attention. Connecting to Holt and Tony made me want to dig deeper,” Turner said. “I didn’t know whom I impacted and when I saw that … it impacted me.

“Those little things that are bigger than me and bigger than football is something that’s important to me.”

Turner has chosen the Rare Disease Community as his cause and is supporting Uplifting Athletes during the NFL My Cause My Cleats campaign.

He is asking you to support his cause by making a donation through his Tackle Rare Diseases campaign.

The proceeds raised by Turner’s My Cause My Cleats campaign supports the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

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Penn Chapter leader and wide receiver Steven Farrell featured in the latest Beyond The Trophy series


FARRELLEach 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: Steven Farrell

College: University of Pennsylvania

Height, weight, class, position: 6-foot-4, 205-pound, senior, wide receiver

High School: Pasack Valley HS in Hillsdale, New Jersey

About Farrell: A two-sport standout coming out of high school, Farrell played football and lacrosse. After sitting out his freshman year, the wide receiver appeared in 10 games as a sophomore in 2016 with four catches. … Last season he became a starter for the Quakers and had his first collegiate touchdown, a 31-yard grab against Cornell on November 18, 2017. Part of the leadership team for the Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and aspires to be a doctor. … This season Farrell has emerged as a go-to target with 38 catches and more than 500 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns. Had his first career 100-yard game in a victory over Yale with seven receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown.

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

Farrell: One of my most memorable experiences as a college football player was my freshman year when we were playing Princeton at home. We were tied and Princeton was kicking a field goal during the final seconds of the fourth quarter and our linebacker Donnie Panciello blocked it. Then in OT we scored the game winning touchdown and I think experiencing that as a freshman really cemented my love for Penn football.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

Farrell: The older guys on our team who were involved with Uplifting Athletes caught my attention as well as Dr. (David) Fajgenbaum, who I was lucky enough to do research with my sophomore summer. He speaks to our team each year and his fight against Castleman disease is a big reason why I am involved with Uplifting Athletes.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

Farrell: I have learned that it is important to use your platform and whatever other resources you have available to help others. I am extremely fortunate to be an Ivy League student-athlete and I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t try to help people in different circumstances. Being involved with UA to help raise money for rare diseases is a way for me to use my voice and platform to help others.

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

Farrell: My favorite part of the game day experience is seeing the final seconds tick off the scoreboard and celebrating a win with my brothers because we play for each other.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Farrell: My favorite NFL player is Damon “Snacks” Harrison because his nickname is funny, and he is on the Giants.

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

Farrell: I would have lunch with my grandpa who died when I was too young to remember him. I can see how much my mom and grandma loved him, and I can only imagine what it would be like to talk to him now. I think he would have had a significant impact on my life and I think about him a lot.

What is your favorite road stadium you ever played in and why?

Farrell: My favorite road stadium that I’ve played in is Dartmouth. The night games there are awesome and they have a great atmosphere, and although the bus ride back home is long, it’s peaceful and makes the win all the more worthwhile.

HOT SEAT QUESTIONS

What is your perfect pizza?

Farrell: Chicken-bacon-ranch from Francesca’s in River Vale, New Jersey

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Farrell: Freestyle by Lil Baby, Good Life by Collie Buddz, and DEEPER THAN RAP by YG

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

Farrell: Popeyes

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

Farrell: University of Pennsylvania Football

What is the most used app on your phone?

Farrell: XOS ThunderCloud

No. 1 goal for yourself in 5 years?

Farrell: Be in my 4th year of medical school applying for residency positions

 

 

 

Saint Francis Chapter Leader and defensive back Nick Rinella featured in latest Beyond The Trophy series


RINELLA IMAGEEach 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: Nick Rinella

College: Saint Francis University

Height, weight, class, position: 5-foot-10, 200-pound, junior, safety

High School: LaSalle College HS, Collegeville, Pa.

About Rinella: Arrived at Saint Francis as a highly decorated high school player on both side of the ball, earning first-team All-State honors as a senior. Played right away as a freshman on special teams and has started as a safety the last two seasons for the Red Flash. … Serves as a leader for the SFU Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. … Has recorded more than 1,100 yards as a kickoff and punt return specialist with three punts returns for touchdowns. … Has 110 tackles and four interceptions in 15 games as a starter at safety. … In 2017 was second-team All-NEC as a punt return specialist and a CoSIDA Academic All-District selction.

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

Rinella: My first career punt return against Robert Morris my sophomore year.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

Rinella: I wanted to help make a difference in this world and I wanted to get involved with something on campus. Uplifting Athletes felt like such a good opportunity and experience to pass up.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

Rinella: That there are so many people out there with rare disease stories that no one knows about. That there are so many people out there trying to make a difference for these people that just aren’t being heard and we have a great opportunity to change that.

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

Rinella: Walking down to the field through the tailgating parking lot and seeing all the support we have and hear all the fans cheering as we walk by.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Rinella: Earl Thomas because I love the way he plays the game and how he continues to learn more and more about the game each year. Plus, it helps that he is the best safety in the league.

What is your favorite road stadium you ever played in and why?

Rinella: Montana’s because it was electrifying and so big. It was a really neat experience.

 HOT SEAT QUESTIONS

What is your perfect pizza?

Rinella: Meat Lovers

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Rinella: FEFE; Barbie Dreams; Don’t

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

Rinella: Wendy’s

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

Rinella: The Chicago Bears

What is the most used app on your phone?

Rinella: Snapchat

No. 1 goal for yourself in 5 years?

Rinella: To be playing as an All-Pro in the NFL