Alex Perdikis, who played linebacker for the University of Richmond football team from 1993 to 1996, knows that college sports is made up of human stories. Stories of players and fans behaving badly get a lot of press, but there are just as many stories that prove the human spirit is alive and well. These are just a few of the heartwarming stories to come out of sports in recent years.
Competition, Rivalry and Human Compassion
College sports is full of age-old rivalries. Arguments between fans, players and team supporters can get heated. The football rivalry between Alabama and Auburn goes way back. Why then, was Alabama quarterback Blake Sims wearing a bracelet supporting Kayla Perry, a young Auburn student and fan, during the 2014 Iron Bowl? Sims had heard about Perry’s diagnosis of a rare and potentially deadly disease called neuroblastoma. He wore the bracelet to support Perry’s fight to beat the disease and raise awareness.
David Ash was a promising young quarterback for Texas. Unfortunately, he suffered numerous concussions and decided to retire from football before sustaining permanent injuries. It wasn’t an easy decision for a talented young athlete to make, but he handled it philosophically, with a positive attitude. Ash made it a point to thank the many Oklahoma Sooner fans, arch rivals of Texas, who wished him well on his journey. Rivalries don’t mean a lot when it comes to compassion.
The Maryville football team was up 46 to nothing against St. Joseph Benton high school. Near the end of the game, Benton’s coach called a timeout and ran across the field to talk to Maryville’s coach. When play resumed, Matt Ziesel, a Benton team member with Down syndrome, came out to play running back. The quarterback handed Ziesel the ball and he ran 70 yards for a touchdown. Maryville won more than a game that day with their compassionate gift to a deserving young man. They won hearts as well.
Anthony, a young man who battled Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, was a huge North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team fan. When players Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald heard about Anthony, they decided to treat the then 12-year-old to a day he’d never forget. Anthony was treated to a behind-the-scenes look at team facilities, met with the coach and players and had the time of his life.
When Western Carolina sophomore Simms Hicks agreed to present the American flag honoring the troops during a presentation at halftime of the men’s basketball game, she had no idea what was in store. Her father, Major Jimmy Hicks was in the Marine Corps stationed in Afghanistan. She hadn’t seen him in months. After presenting the flag alongside officials and the team mascot, Simms started to walk back to her seat when the mascot removed the head of his costume, revealing his identity. There stood Simms’ father. Father and daughter embraced in an emotional reunion.