Rare Disease Champion
Rare Disease Champion

About the Rare Disease Champion Award

The Rare Disease Champion Award is given to a leader in college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community.


About The Trophy

The Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion trophy was sculpted in the likeness Mark Herzlich by the world renowned artist Brian Hanlon.

Herzlich was a senior linebacker at Boston College when he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in May 2009. After five months of treatment, Mark was deemed cancer-free and returned to the gridiron for his final season as an Eagle in 2010. The following year, Mark signed with the New York Giants and was part of the Super Bowl winning team in 2011.

Brian Hanlon is a classically trained master sculptor and founder of Hanlon Sculpture Studio. With over 300 public and private art pieces since 1987, Hanlon is a nationally-acclaimed artist from Toms River, New Jersey specializing in bronze statues and plazas. He has received national awards and commendations for his liturgical, civic, and athletic works.


To Qualify as a Nominee

  1. Nominee must be a current member of a college football program (student-athlete, coach, trainer, staff member, etc.) from an NCAA FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III Institution or a college football organization.
  2. Nominee must possess a rare disease connection: a) is currently surviving one; b) is raising money for a rare disease, or c) is inspired to advocate for others battling a rare disease. A rare disease is defined as one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans
  3. Nominee demonstrates great respect for competitors, school, teammates, coaches, and the game of college football.
  4. Nominee cannot be a previous winner of the award.

Selection Process

Uplifting Athletes determines the finalists from the pool of qualified nominees, and a personal rare disease story is written about each finalist and published online at www.upliftingathletes.org during the month of January. The winner will be determined by a public online vote during the month of January. Fans and supporters can cast their vote daily, and a winner will be announced in conjunction with the start of Rare Disease Awareness Month in February.


Winner Presentation

Uplifting Athletes will recognize the winner of the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award at the Maxwell Football Club National Awards Gala in March. The Awards presentation will be broadcasted live on ESPN3.

You can buy tickets for the Maxwell Football Club National Awards Gala here.