The Rare Disease Champion Award
is given annually 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.
Sammie Coates, Auburn wide receiver. After establishing himself as one of the top deep threat receivers in the country, Coates won the 2015 Rare Disease Champion Award after forming a close friendship with Kenzie Ray, a young leukemia patient and Auburn fan, and giving her support and hope throughout her chemotherapy treatment. Read his uplifting story here!
C.J. Zimmerer, Nebraska fullback. The 2014 champion played a pivotal role in the planning and execution of the 69-yard TD run by Jack Hoffman during the Huskers' 2013 spring game. He was also President of the Nebraska Chapter and was selected as a member of the AFCA Allstate Good Works Team. Read his uplifting story here!
Eric Shrive, Penn State offensive lineman, was named the 2013 Rare Disease Champion. Over Shrive's 5-year career at Penn State and involvement with their Uplifting Athletes Chapter, he raised more than $100,000 for kidney cancer research. Read his uplifting story here!
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska’s running back, was named the 2012 Rare Disease Champion. Burkhead’s relationship with a 6-year-old boy battling a pediatric brain tumor inspired his teammates to fight back by raising awareness and providing support for him and his family. Read his uplifting story here!
Princeton’s Jordan Culbreath was named the 2011 Rare Disease Champion. Culbreath’s personal battle was an inspiration for his teammates and an inspiration to the rare disease community. Read his uplifting story here!
Dickinson College’s Ian Mitchell was named the 2010 Rare Disease Champion. Mitchell raised more than $95,000 in his collegiate career in honor of a childhood friend who passed away from a rare form of bone cancer. Read his uplifting story here!
The 2009 recipient was Grant Teaff of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), selected for its nation-wide effort to raise awareness about Duchenne Muscular Distrophy through their one-day event “Coach to Cure MD”, which raised more than $230,000 in 2008.