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.
College: Humboldt State University
Rare disease connection: Following an outstanding season in which he earned All-California honors at College of the Redwoods, Reagan went through a transformation of his body and psyche that coaches, friends and family couldn't understand. He went from a muscular 320 pounds to 380, developed symptoms of bipolar disorder, and finally became a near vegetable, suffering from what appeared to be severe clinical depression. As he went in and out of hospitals, no firm diagnosis was found. He also developed diabetes during this time, which actually helped his family doctor reach a diagnosis. During an appointment for diabetes monitoring, the doctor suggested that Reagan had Cushing's disease. A scan revealed a huge tumor wrapped around his heart and left lung, one that had developed the ability to excrete the hormone cortisol, resulting in his erratic behavior and body changes. Open heart surgery removed the tumor, but his left lung was now useless. Playing football at Humboldt State compelled him to work hard to return, and he reported to training camp in August, just four months after surgery. With a single functioning lung, he started all 11 games this fall, and was named to the All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference team.
In his own words: “It takes me a little longer to warm up and get to game speed. But I don't want to be treated differently than my teammates. I feel blessed for every snap and am much more aware of other people's feelings.”