photo courtesy of russellathletic.com
The Russell Athletic "Fight Like Dylan" award honors high school sports teams that show perseverance to beat the odds through teamwork. In the award's sixth year, the panel of judges, led by Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, selected Huntington High School (New York) as the 2016 recipient.
The start of the Blue Devils' football season held little promise as they lost their first three games. But they took motivation from honorary teammate Eli Mollineaux, who suffers from Pearson Syndrome, a rare and often fatal disease that affects the pancreas. Eli was diagnosed at the age of 1 and was not expected to live past age 5. The young man defied all odds. At 14 years old, with the help of his teammates, he scored a touchdown in front of the hometown fans.
A month later, Eli passed away at age 15.
"Our team adopted Eli into our family the first day he took the field," said head football coach Steve Muller. "And we celebrated as teammates when he scored his touchdown, just as we now celebrate his life."
Behind the motto of "bELIeve," the Blue Devils won five of their last six games and made the playoffs.
"We are proud to be the brand that gives voice to such amazing stories of communities that have struggled, but still found success through teamwork. After careful review of all the submissions, we are proud to have Huntington High School as our 2016 Fight Like Dylan Award recipient," said Matt Murphy, Vice President of Marketing, Russell Athletic. "The support for Eli and his determination to beat the odds is what made the story so profound, proving that the power of team can make a difference in not only one life, but an entire community."
Because Huntington High School displayed teamwork that inspired all of the community, they will receive a $50,000 grant.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock