Carrying the burden of a rare genetic gene drove Seth Rotberg to a life helping others


He was just 20 years old when he learned his future would be cut short by the same disease that was robbing life from his mother. Seth Rotberg carried that burden alone, until a pair of tragedies showed him the time he had left was best spent honestly and in service to others. 

A decade ago, Seth found out he had inherited the gene that leads to Huntington’s disease. The rare, progressive breakdown of the nerve cells inside the brain is characterized as a cruel combination of ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimers – all at once. Huntington’s is the quintessential family disease. Every child of a parent with the disorder has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene.

Seth was thrust into being a rare disease family member and caregiver at 15 years old when his mom, Debbie, was diagnosed. As he watched her struggle and saw how it impacted their family, Seth couldn’t help but wonder if this was just a foreshadowing of his own future.

“The majority of people don’t get tested prior to showing the symptoms,” Seth said of the disease that usually manifests between the ages of 30-50. “I decided that I wanted to plan my future and I wanted to know what my future would entail. If I had the gene, this could impact my future and how I live my life.”

Genetic testing is a deeply personal decision on so many levels. Do you want to know if you are carrying the gene that will eventually show itself in the form of a difficult, debilitating and life-threatening rare disorder?

That was where Seth found himself a decade ago. Was it better to know and plan or better to not know and see what happens? There was no middle ground when it came to inheriting the faulty gene. Either you have it or you don’t.

Seth wanted to know.

“We all face our struggles at times, myself included. But we all want to live our best life, right? I’m driven to help people understand how to live their best life.”

Seth Rotberg

“Nobody said to me ‘Hey, Seth, do you want to go through this?’ I wanted to plan my future and I wanted to know what my future would entail,” he said.

Seth got the test and with it, tragic results. He had the gene. What came next turned into a private battle.

“I kept this hidden from my family for three years. I only told a couple of my closest friends,” said Seth, who grew up just outside Boston as a huge Celtics fan. “I didn’t want my mom to find out and feel guilty with all she was going through. I didn’t want to pressure my sister to get tested. Everyone has to make their own decision when it comes to genetic testing and that’s deeply personal. I just chose not to tell them.”

Bearing the weight of knowing he possessed the faulty gene associated with Huntington’s disease, and choosing not to tell his family, Seth was struggling to find his purpose. It took not one, but two, life-altering experiences for him to embrace and understand what he needed to do to begin moving forward.

“I was a senior in college, it was the day before my last semester, and a friend of mine died in an off-campus fire. As I tried to understand why it happened and deal with my grief … let’s just say there wasn’t much closure. He was gone too soon,” Seth said.

“I also had a friend who had the juvenile [form] of Huntington’s disease and she passed away shortly after my other friend, at the age of 26. At that time my thoughts kept coming back to they were both gone too soon.

“Meghan was one with Huntington’s disease. She was sharing her story, living her life and doing all she could to help others,” he said. “That’s when I realized I needed to not only lift this extra weight off my shoulders, but ultimately I wanted to do what I can to help other people.”

Once he unloaded the burden about his future as a rare disease patient, Seth shifted his focus to support of young people like himself. His hope is to be a mentor for young people who face adversity by sharing how taking control of his journey has given him opportunity, fulfillment and hope.

Seth’s passion is driven by his mother’s 17-year battle with the rare genetic disorder known as Huntington’s Disease.

More than just sharing his story, Seth has answered the call to become an advocate to use his own experiences as a way to help alter the landscape and empower others inside the rare disease community.

The challenges that face the Rare Disease Community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can possibly tackle alone. Seth is part of a community, along with Uplifting Athletes, who are working together to shine a spotlight on rare diseases.

“I’ve learned I can’t always be the strong one,” Seth said. “A lot of my passion came from my mom. Unfortunately there wasn’t more I could do to help her. But from that, what I learned is, I want to help people.”

In June of 2019, Seth co-founded Our Odyssey, a nonprofit organization powered by young adults that serves those between the ages of 18-35 living with a rare disease or chronic condition.

“There’s a purpose to Our Odyssey and what we are doing for others and helping them,” said Seth, an avid runner who also enjoys playing video games. “We are making a difference in people’s lives and that’s a great feeling.”

The vision for Our Odyssey is to establish a national organization with a platform that empowers, educates, and connects young adults experiencing health challenges. The values of Our Odyssey are collaboration, empowerment, belonging, hope, purpose-driven and inclusivity.

Seth started Our Odyssey to help others, while also enhancing his ‘why’ at the same time. The conversations and interaction with others like him have become the biggest influence on his life as the clock ticks toward what he knows is inevitable.

One of the tools Seth promotes as a leader, motivational speaker and community connector is helping others discover their ‘why’ in life. Seth found his through the tragic loss of two close friends, which in turn gave him the clarity to know the burdens he was carrying around were not his to bear alone.

“We all face our struggles at times, myself included. But we all just want to live our best life, right? I’m driven to help people understand how to live their best life,” Seth said.

“Because of what I know, I can’t live in the future. I can prepare for the future and that’s important. But I can’t live my best life knowing what I know is ahead for me. I need to make sure I enjoy the moment, enjoy what I have today instead of being focused too far ahead. It’s not a big mystery, my future. Knowing that has helped me serve others better today.”

Beyond The Trophy 2020: Get to know Penn Chapter Vice President and linebacker Brian O’Neill


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: Brian O’Neill

College: University of Pennsylvania

Height, weight, class, position: 6-2, 240-pound, senior, linebacker

High School: West Essex Regional High School in Roseland, New Jersey

About Brian: Brian has been an impact player on the field the last two seasons for Penn and now is looking to make an impact serving the Rare Disease Community. Brian participated in the 2018 and 2019 Lift For Life events as part of the Iron Quaker and volunteered to assume a leadership role in the Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. He attended the 2020 Leadership Development Conference and is excited to help the UPenn program support the rare disease cause. A native of New Jersey, Brian started 10 games each of the last two seasons at linebacker and in 2019 was a second team All-Ivy selection. He led the Quakers in interceptions in 2019 with three and the last two years as a starter has registered more than 110 tackles and 20-plus tackles for a loss.

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

O’NEILL: Beating Harvard on the last play of the game at their stadium. 

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

O’NEILL: I wouldn’t be where I am today without those who helped me and allowed me to be in my current situation. So I feel it’s necessary to pay that forward and Uplifting Athletes has provided me a chance to help others.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

O’NEILL: That any group, no matter how big or small, can have an impact on a large group like the Rare Disease Community. 

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

O’NEILL: Work ethic and being a student of the game are going to propel you to your goals.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

O’NEILL: Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly because he is so smart and still such a physical player.  

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

O’NEILL: American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

BRIAN ON THE HOT SEAT

What is your perfect pizza?

O’NEILL: Buffalo Chicken 

All time favorite movie?

O’NEILL: Interstellar

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

O’NEILL: Taco Bell 

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

O’NEILL: New York Giants

What is the most used app on your phone?

O’NEILL: Snapchat

Chapter Update: Honoring FBS senior chapter leaders and three teams post Week 14 victories


As the 2020 college football season winds down, Uplifting Athletes would like to honor the contribution of nine veteran FBS chapter leaders in service to the Rare Disease Community.

Thank you to Nolan Cooney of Syracuse, Thomas Ruocchio and Dylan Autenrieth of NC State, Michael Marchese of Illinois, Will Spiers of Clemson, Jack DeFoor of Georgia Tech, Joe Spivak of Northwestern, Brock Wright of Notre Dame and Jake Funk of Maryland for inspiring the Rare Disease Community with hope.

Best wishes to each of you in the next step of your journey. You will always be a part of the Uplifting Athletes family.


Northwestern: For the sixth consecutive year, the Wildcats claimed the Land of Lincoln Trophy over rival and fellow chapter school Illinois. Northwestern amassed more than 400 yards on the ground for the first time since 2003. Running backs Evan Hull and Cam Porter combined for 291 of those yards and three touchdowns. Northwestern Chapter leader, defensive lineman Joe Spivak, had three tackles. Illinois Chapter leader, linebacker Michael Marchese, had three solo tackles and a pass break-up. The Wildcats are champions of the Big Ten West for the second time in three years and will play Ohio State Saturday in the Big Ten Championship game.

Penn State: A monster second half propelled the Nittany Lions past Michigan State for their third win in a row. Penn State outscored the Spartans 29-3 in the second half on Senior Day. Quarterback Sean Clifford threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes to Parker Washington, and Jahan Dotson returned a punt 81 yards for a score. Dotson became the third Big Ten player since 2000 to record 100 receiving yards and return a punt for a touchdown in the same game, joining Michigan’s Steve Breaston (2006) and Wisconsin’s Brandon Williams (2005). Clifford, former Penn State Chapter President, finished with 280 total yards (232 passing, 48 rushing) and accounted for three touchdowns.

Florida State: Quarterback Jordan Travis sparked a ground game that churned out more than 300 yards and accounted for six touchdowns in the victory over Duke. The redshirt sophomore rushed for 90 yards, setting FSU’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 559 – surpassing the 504 by Charlie Ward in 1992. Florida State Chapter President, linebacker DeCalon Brooks, finished with three tackles.

Round-Up: The final play of the key Western Michigan game at Ball State saw the Broncos score an apparent game winning touchdown after a wild series of laterals only to see an illegal forward pass negate the play. The Broncos outgained the Cardinals 491-352 and led by 14 heading into the fourth quarter. … Maryland Chapter leader, running back Jake Funk, had 180 yards on only 17 carries with a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury in an overtime setback to Rutgers. It was the first time in his career where Funk scored a touchdown and the Terrapins didn’t claim victory. … The Georgia Tech defense kept the Yellow Jackets in the game against Pitt, limiting the Panthers to only one touchdown in six trips inside the red zone. Pitt’s ground game allowed the Panthers to keep the ball away from the Tech offense in the victory, by running up more than 300 rushing yards and nearly 40 minutes in time of possession. … Baylor took the field against Top 25 ranked Oklahoma State shorthanded because of COVID-19. The Bears were missing 47 players, coaches and support staff in the loss to the Cowboys.

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 Stony Brook offensive lineman and Chapter Vice President Kyle Nunez.

Beyond The Trophy 2020: Get to know Stony Brook Chapter Vice President and offensive lineman Kyle Nunez


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: Kyle Nunez

College: Stony Brook

Height, weight, class, position: 6-2, 340-pound, redshirt junior, offensive line

High School: East Islip High School in East Islip, New York

About Kyle: Kyle Nunez has been an impact player on the field the last two seasons for Stony Brook  and now is looking to make an impact serving the Rare Disease Community. Kyle participated in the Stony Brook Chapter Lift For Life in 2019 and volunteered to assume a leadership role. He attended the 2020 Leadership Development Conference and his leadership played a key role in Stony Brook holding a successful 2020 Lift For Life in support of the rare disease cause. A native of New York, Kyle has played in 24 straight games at right guard for the Seawolves including 17 starts up front. He’s a two-time second team All-CAA selection and in 2018 was named HERO Sports Freshman All-American. 

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

NUNEZ: Seeing my family in the stands every game I play. 

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

NUNEZ: I want to create an impact in any way I can for people in need.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

NUNEZ: No one fights alone, any contribution I can make to help spread awareness for rare diseases makes a difference.

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

NUNEZ: Visit every school you possibly can then figure out which school fits you and only you the best.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

NUNEZ: Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward because his love for the game was unmatched.   

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

NUNEZ: My grandmother. I would do anything to have the opportunity to see her just one more time.

KYLE ON THE HOT SEAT

What is your perfect pizza?

NUNEZ: Thin with a nice crunch  

All time favorite movie?

NUNEZ: Armageddon

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

NUNEZ: Burger King 

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

NUNEZ: Pittsburgh Steelers

What is the most used app on your phone?

NUNEZ: Twitter

Chapter Update: Historical victory for Penn State and three other schools post Week 13 wins


Penn State became the ninth program in college football to win 900 games with its road triumph over Rutgers. It was the Nittany Lions’ second win in a row in their 134th season.

Running the football has been the formula for recent Penn State success offensively, as the Nittany Lions eclipsed 245-plus yards for the third time in its last four games. True freshman running back Keyvonne Lee paced the Lions with 95 yards on 17 carries.

Penn State’s defense was the difference maker, limiting the Scarlet Knights to only 205 total yards and producing a pair of first-half fourth-and-1 stops in Rutgers territory that the offense turned into touchdowns.

NC State: The Wolfpack closed out their most successful ACC season with their fourth win a row – holding off fellow chapter school Georgia Tech in a tight game NC State led wire-to-wire. The victory was the seventh in the ACC for NC State, the most conference wins in school history. Junior kicker Christopher Dunn had three field goals, moving him into first place in the NC State record books for career field goals made. Dunn now has 56 career field goals. NC State Chapter Vice President, tight end Dylan Autenreith, had his first catch of the season. Georgia Tech Chapter leaders, offensive linemen Jack DeFoor and Zach Quinney, started at left guard and tackle, respectively.

Clemson: Trevor Lawrence became the winningest starting quarterback in program history with the Tigers’ victory over Virginia Tech. Lawrence posted victory No. 33, surpassing Rodney Williams, Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson, who each had 32. Lawrence is 33-1 as the starting quarterback. Clemson secured its sixth straight trip to the ACC Championship where it will face fellow chapter school Notre Dame in a highly anticipated re-match. The Tigers scored 28 unanswered second-half points to subdue the Hokies.

Notre Dame: Ian Book became the winningest starting quarterback in program history with the Fighting Irish’s victory over fellow chapter school Syracuse. Book threw for 285 yards and five total touchdowns for win No. 30 of his career. Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams finished with 110 yards on 20 carries to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark for the season. He is the first Irish sophomore since Darius Walker in 2005 to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season. Notre Dame Chapter leaders, linebackers Drew White and JD Bertrand, combined for three solo tackles and White added 1.5 tackles for a loss. Syracuse running back Sean Tucker eclipsed 100 yards for the third time this season, joining Joe Morris in 1978 as the only Orange freshmen to rush for 100-plus three times in a season. Former Syracuse Chapter leader, punter Nolan Cooney, punted seven times for 298 yards to finish the season with 3,314 yards – good enough for second all-time for punting yards in a single season.

Round-Up: The Baylor defense ended Oklahoma’s streak of 60 straight games scoring at least 28 points and held the No. 11 ranked Sooners to their lowest point total in five years in a 13-point loss. … Illinois held a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter but couldn’t continue the momentum it built early and Iowa scored the next 35 points on its way to a 14-point win on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium. Illinois Chapter Vice President, linebacker Michael Marchese, finished with five total tackles including a pair of solo stops. … Western Michigan dropped its first game of the season, getting outscored by Eastern Michigan in a shootout that produced more than 1,000 yards of total offense. The Broncos have one regular-season game remaining, a road affair at Ball State with a berth in the MAC Championship Game on the line for the winner. Western Michigan Chapter Vice President, safety Jake Moertl, had a season-high five tackles.

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 safety and Chapter Vice President Jake Moertl.

Beyond The Trophy: Get to know Western Michigan Chapter Vice President and safety Jake Moertl


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: Jake Moertl

College: Western Michigan

Height, weight, class, position: 6-0, 195-pound, junior, safety

High School: Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois

About Jake: The Illinois native found the field early in his Broncos career and is now looking to make an impact serving the Rare Disease Community. Jake participated in the inaugural Western Michigan Lift For Life in 2019 and volunteered to assume a leadership role. He attended the 2020 Leadership Development Conference and is excited to help the Western Michigan program support the rare disease cause. He appeared in 23 games his first two years at Western Michigan primarily on special teams. Last season he played in all 13 games and recorded his first career tackle. This season he’s earning more snaps as a reserve safety and has six tackles in 2020.

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

MOERTL: My first collegiate game in 2018 against Syracuse. 

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

MOERTL: A connection to the Rare Disease Community that has impacted my family’s life.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

MOERTL: It’s bigger than a game. We have the platform as athletes to impact and support those in the Rare Disease Community.

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

MOERTL: Listen and consider what your family sees for you, but this is your life and decision. Follow the guidance of your loved ones, but don’t allow them to make the final decision for you.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

MOERTL: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins because he is an incredibly faithful christian and a humble person. 

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

MOERTL: My dad because he’s had the greatest impact on my life.

JAKE ON THE HOT SEAT

What is your perfect pizza?

MOERTL: Veggie  

All time favorite movie?

MOERTL: Remember The Titans

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

MOERTL: Potbelly 

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

MOERTL: Chicago Bears

What is the most used app on your phone?

MOERTL: Credit Karma

Chapter Update: Baylor rallies to win in dramatic fashion and six other teams record Week 12 victories


Baylor snapped its five-game slide in dramatic fashion, using a 30-yard John Mayers field goal as time expired to come from behind and beat Kansas State by a point.

The Bears twice overcame nine-point, fourth-quarter deficits and scored the final 10 points, including driving 57 yards in 10 plays to set up the winning kick. QB Charlie Brewer, who was 4-for-4 on the final drive, finished with 405 total yards and two touchdowns each passing and rushing.

Penn State: A season-high 254 yards on the ground powered Penn State to its first victory in 2020 with a win on the road at Michigan. The Nittany Lions’ last victory in Ann Arbor was 2009. True freshman RB Keyvonne Lee had a career-high 134 yards to pace the offense. Former Penn State Chapter President, quarterback Sean Clifford, chipped in 226 total yards including a 29-yard touchdown scamper. The Nittany Lions defense limited Michigan to fewer than 300 total yards and held the Wolverines to a paltry 5-for-15 on third and fourth down conversions. 

Notre Dame: The No. 2 ranked Fighting Irish scored the final 14 points to pull away from North Carolina down the stretch and post their 15th consecutive victory. Notre Dame’s defense held a Tar Heels offense that came in averaging more than 43 points a game to a season-low 17 points and fewer than 300 total yards. RB Kyren Williams had the second three-touchdown game of his career. Notre Dame Chapter President, linebacker Drew White, finished with five tackles including a pair of tackles for a loss and a half-sack. 

Clemson: The No. 3 ranked Tigers saw the return of starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence after a two-game absence and Clemson proceeded to score a school-record 31 points in the first quarter against Pitt. Lawrence finished with 403 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Tigers’ defense hauled in five turnovers including three interceptions in the first nine Pitt pass attempts. Wide receiver Cornell Powell, had six catches for 176 yards and a touchdown to become only the third Tiger wide receiver to finish with 150 or more receiving yards in back-to-back games and the first since Sammy Watkins in 2013.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets amassed more than 375 yards on the ground and freshman quarterback Jeff Sims threw three touchdown passes to pull away from Duke in their 88th meeting. The Yellow Jackets defense forced five turnovers and Tech scored the final 21 points to pull away. Georgia Tech Chapter leaders, offensive linemen Jack DeFoor and Zach Quinney, started at left guard and left tackle, respectively.

NC State: Powered by a career-high 313 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Bailey Hockman, the Wolfpack won their third in a row by coming from behind to nudge past fellow chapter school Syracuse. NC State scored the final 16 points after falling behind 29-20 late in the third quarter. Former Syracuse Chapter leader, punter Nolan Cooney, averaged 43.1 yards on seven punts and was named the Orange team captain for the game.

Western Michigan: The Broncos rallied for 10 points in the final 9:12 to stay unbeaten with a victory over Northern Illinois. Wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge had 285 all-purpose yards including the eighth 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in program history. WMU’s defense had five sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and six pass break-ups. Western Michigan Chapter Vice President, safety Jake Moertl, had a solo tackle for the Broncos.

Round-Up: For the second time this season Northwestern overcame a 17-point deficit, only this time the Wildcats couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter as Michigan State scored the final 12 points to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Northwestern Chapter Vice President, defensive lineman Joe Spivak, finished with three tackles. … Maryland wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. tallied his fourth career 100-yard receiving game and second of the season, posting six receptions for 114 yards including a 43-yard touchdown catch in the loss to No. 11 Indiana. This is the fifth-straight game Demus posted at least four receptions, becoming the first Terp to accomplish that feat since Stefon Diggs in 2014. … Kent State suffered its first loss of the season against a Buffalo team that saw running back Jare Patterson rush for 409 yards and eight touchdowns. Kent State Chapter President, wide receiver Isaac Vance, had six catches for 45 yards.

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 Kent State receiver/returner and Chapter President Isaac Vance.

Beyond The Trophy 2020: Get to know Kent State Chapter President and wide receiver Isaac Vance


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: Isaac Vance

College: Kent State

Height, weight, class, position: 5-9, 169-pound, redshirt junior, slot receiver

High School: Mayfield High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico

About Isaac: Inspired by former Golden Flashes teammate Antwan Dixon and his comeback from battling a rare blood disorder, Isaac chose to take on a leadership role after participating in the inaugural Kent State Chapter Lift For Life in 2019. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2020 and plays a key role for the Kent State Chapter and its support of the Rare Disease Community. The native of Las Cruces, New Mexico had played in 24 games over in 2018 and 2019 primarily on special teams before earning a starting spot in 2020. Isaac is a two-time member of the Academic All-Mac Team and was honored as the 2019-2020 recipient of the Lou Holtz Scholarship Endowment.

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

VANCE: Winning the 2019 Frisco Bowl game against Utah State.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

VANCE: Being teammates with a former rare disease patient and seeing his work ethic and drive during his comeback inspired me.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

VANCE: Our voice as college athletes is strong, and we can use our platform for positivity.

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

VANCE: I would tell them to ‘work, work.’ Put in the hours when people aren’t watching.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

VANCE: Quarterback Cam Newton. Always smiling and he dresses top notch.

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

VANCE: Major League Baseball star Miguel Tejada because I grew up idolizing him and his game.

ISAAC ON THE HOT SEAT

What is your perfect pizza?

VANCE: Garlic crusted pepperoni and cheese 

All time favorite movie?

VANCE: Bad Boys II

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

VANCE: Whataburger 

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

VANCE: Atlanta Braves

What is the most used app on your phone?

VANCE: Twitter

Shaun Hastings is built to be an impactful leader in the lives of others


Shaun Hastings may be a massive 6-4, 280-pound offensive lineman, but his mother says his soft heart has always been the biggest thing about the Saint Francis University redshirt junior.  

The oldest of three siblings, Hastings was protective of his younger brother and sister. It was an instinct he displayed at a young age and one that not only helped his family navigate through a tough period but also laid the building blocks for the man Shaun is today.

“I noticed as he was growing up Shaun was always so in tune to others’ feelings,” said his mother, Erin Hastings. “He always was putting others before himself.”

“One of the biggest things I have learned is how much of an impact that I myself can have on so many people’s lives.”

Shaun Hastings

When Shaun was nearly 10 years old, his brother Matthew began to struggle with issues. As the diagnosis of ADHD/SPD slowly came into focus, finding the right combination of medication and therapy to help Matthew was a strain on the family. 

“I was younger when Matthew was first diagnosed,” Shaun said. “Even at that age I could see it was frustrating and difficult for my parents and our family. Learning how to deal with his issues, finding the right medications for him … it was some tough times.”

Shaun was keenly aware of Matthew’s issues, Erin said, and was a calming presence for his brother. That steady influence laid the foundation for a tight relationship that served both brothers well as they grew up.

“Shaun is very protective. I think with the difficulties we had in the beginning with Matthew, he was very keen on how others perceived his brother,” Erin said. “[Matthew] noticed the stares and the whispers, and Shaun stepped in to help.

“I never asked Shaun to help. He was such a calming influence for Matthew. And it was tough for me at first to reconcile having my kid help me. But I never asked him. He did it all by himself. I came to realize it was just who he is.”

Matthew and Shaun never attended the same school because of their seven-year age difference. Still, Shaun remained keenly aware of what was going on around his brother.

Shaun made sure to stay in tune with what was going on when they left the house. He wanted Matthew to be viewed the same as everybody else. It was extremely important to him. 

“I feel everyone deserves a shot to be treated right and fairly. Especially kids. Growing up, kids are mean and it’s tough,” Shaun said. “It was just something I was aware of. It wasn’t something I could protect my brother from, per se, but I just kept an open eye and looked out for him.”

During those early years, as the Hastings family worked through finding Matthew the right combination of a proper diagnosis and medications, Erin discovered Shaun had a special soft spot for kids. And it was more than Matthew. He gravitated to all of them.

“It’s not just the relationship with his brother,” Erin said. “It’s his cousins, our friends’ kids. Kids are a big deal to Shaun. He’s always such a calming influence on them and he’s always had a soft spot for kids with disabilities or who are struggling, obviously. Kids just gravitate to him and I describe Shaun to everyone as a big leader.”

A soft spot for kids, leadership abilities and a willingness to put others first  … it’s no wonder Shaun has discovered ways to fill the servant-leader gap while he’s away from his family at college.

When Shaun arrived on campus at Saint Francis in 2017, football and school dominated his focus. And that hasn’t changed. Shaun is taking classes on campus, dealing with COVID-19 guidelines and hoping the Red Flash have a season in early 2021. Meanwhile, he has discovered outlets and opportunities to help others.

During his freshman year while he was “finding his way,” Shaun came across an opportunity to be involved with Special Olympics. Kids and a community that needed help were a natural fit.

Later that first year, he participated in the Saint Francis Chapter of Uplifting Athletes Lift for Life and wanted to learn more about what it was all about.

As a leader, and a person who gets a high level of satisfaction helping serve people or communities that are challenged or underserved, Shaun learned more about the chapter and the rare disease cause and knew it was something he wanted to be a part of.

“I never really got involved with organizations and stuff [at Cedar Cliff high school] because I was always very busy in high school,” said Shaun. “My freshman year here I was still trying to find my place. I was looking for things that fit so I could help.

“So I got involved in Special Olympics. That was my first step. When I was a freshman we had Lift For Life and that really interested me.”

Shaun attended the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta in early 2020 after volunteering to become a chapter leader to better help serve the Rare Disease Community. 

No one is less surprised than his mother that Shaun has found a way to serve others. She saw it up close and personal in their home for more than a decade.

“He has a heart of gold. Personality-wise he’s 100 percent like his father [Mark] but because of what we went through with Matthew and how I had to learn and train to adjust to being in tune with his needs, I like to think this side he gets from me,” Erin said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Shaun where he put himself first. His default is to put others first and I’m proud of him for finding ways to put his talents outside of football to use.”

Chapter Update: Northwestern locks down Wisconsin to win fifth straight and four other teams register Week 11 victories


Northwestern is 5-0 overall for the first time since 2015 after knocking off No. 10 Wisconsin. The last time the Wildcats knocked off an AP Top-10 team was 2011 when it beat Nebraska.

The last time Northwestern held an AP Top-10 opponent to seven or fewer points was 1967 against Miami. The Wildcats defense produced five turnovers, held Wisconsin to 5-for-20 (25 percent) on third and fourth downs and did not allow the Badgers to take a single snap in the red zone.

For the fourth time in five games, Northwestern held an opponent scoreless in the second half and has now outscored the opposition 47-10 in the second half this season. The Wildcats turned it over only once and had just one penalty for five yards.

Quarterback Peyton Ramsey had a pair of touchdown passes to pace the Wildcats offense. Linebackers Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher combined for 27 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack. Northwestern Chapter Vice President, defensive tackle Joe Spivak, started up front and finished with a pair of tackles.

Illinois: Sparked by an offense that rang up nearly 500 yards and a defense that produced five turnovers, the Illini won its second game in a row by winning at Nebraska for the first time since 1924. Running backs Mike Epstein and Chase Brown each rushed for more than 100 yards against the Huskers. It is the first time Illinois has had back-to-back games with two 100-plus yard rushers since Rocky Harvey and Antonio Harris in 2000. The back-to-back road victories marks the first time since 2007 Illinois has won consecutive Big Ten games away from home. 

NC State: Linebacker Vi Jones blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt with 1:20 left to give the Wolfpack their first win over a nationally ranked opponent at home since 2017, and the first at home over a ranked non-conference foe since 2007 in edging No. 21 Liberty. The block by Jones was his third blocked kick of the season. Linebacker Isaiah Moore had a team-high 13 tackles and forced a safety in the third quarter, the first Wolfpack two-pointer on defense since 2010. 

Kent State: The Golden Flashes are 3-0 for the first time since 1958 after securing the Wagon Wheel for the second consecutive year by drubbing rival Akron. The Flashes tied school records for most points in a single game (69) and most total yards in a single game (750) as well as broke the school record for yards per play (9.62). It is the first time in school history that the Flashes have scored 60-plus points in back-to-back games, becoming just the third Mid-American Conference (MAC) school to do so since 1970. Dustin Crum became the first quarterback in Kent State history to throw for three touchdowns and rush for two scores in the victory. Crum finished with 452 total yards (348 passing, 104 rushing), the third most in school history, and became the first Golden Flashes player since Julian Edelman in 2008 to have two touchdowns both rushing and passing. Kent State Chapter President, wide receiver Isaac Vance, had four catches for 36 yards.

Western Michigan: For the third year in a row the Broncos secured the Victory Cannon Trophy as WMU defeated rival Central Michigan. Western Michigan rang  up a staggering 628. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby finished with a career-high 382 yards passing and a career-best five touchdown passes. Redshirt senior wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge led all Broncos with 212 yards receiving and three touchdowns on just four receptions. 

Round-Up: Penn State fell behind Iowa by 27 points before former Penn State Chapter President, back-up quarterback Sean Clifford, threw a pair of touchdown passes on consecutive throws to slice the deficit to 10 late in the third quarter. However, it wasn’t enough as the Nittany Lions turned it over four times, including a pick-six, in the loss. … Three turnovers and limited firepower on offense stalled Syracuse in a setback to Louisville. The Orange managed only seven first downs and were blanked for the first time since 2016. Former Syracuse Chapter Leader, punter Nolan Cooney, is on pace to set the school standard for punting average after he averaged 44.5 yards per kick with a pair over 50 yards and two inside the 20.

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 NC State tight end and Chapter Vice President Dylan Autenrieth.