BOWLING GREEN, Ky., Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Russell Athletic announced today that Huntington High School is the 2016 "Fight Like Dylan Award" recipient. In its sixth year, the award honors high school sports teams that have used inspiring perseverance to overcome odds and achieve success through teamwork. A panel of judges, led by Pro Football Hall of Famer, Tony Dungy, selected the recipient after reviewing submissions from across the nation. Through this initiative, Russell Athletic will present Huntington High School with a $50,000 grant for sports apparel and equipment in a celebratory event hosted at the high school. The Huntington football team took inspiration from an honorary teammate battling a terminal disease to turn their season around and become a stronger, more inspired team that made the playoffs.
Huntington football's inspiration and honorary teammate was Eli Mollineaux. The Blue Devils struggled early in the season and were a longshot to make the playoffs, but Eli, who suffered from Pearson Syndrome – a mitochondrial disease - was defying his own odds at age fourteen after doctors told his parents that he would not live past kindergarten.
Eli's infectious personality, charisma and bravery were the motivation for the Huntington football team, adopting the mantra "#bELIeve" this season in his honor. The turning point for the Blue Devils' season came in September during a game recognizing Eli. After losing their first three games, Huntington was scheduled to face their rival, Smithtown West. As a tribute to Eli and his courageousness, players invited the young man onto the field to score his first touchdown with 1,500 fans chanting #bELIeve. Players from both teams ran alongside him and cheered him across the goal line. The opposing team even wore Eli's #40 jersey with his name on back, while fans held #bELIeve signs. Motivated by Eli, the team went on to win the game 42-20 and then proceeded to win five of their next six games securing their spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, in late October, Eli passed away, but the team and community still draw from the memory of Eli's bravery and courage displayed during his short life.
"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."
"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."
The Huntington Blue Devils and Eli Mollineaux are a direct representation of the team message Russell Athletic espouses through the "Team On" campaign that kicked off during the 2016 football season. Russell Athletic believes that teams can find an uncommon strength when faced with adversity and they celebrate those teams every year through this award. Not unlike the previous five recipients, the story of Huntington Football and Eli exemplifies a team finding strength and inspiration in their community. Each recipient has proudly represented the memory of Dylan Rebeor, the award's namesake and a high school football player whose last wish selflessly was for his teammates to receive new uniforms before he passed away in 2011.
"Each year I continue to be amazed by the incredible stories of our high school athletes," said Tony Dungy. "The Huntington High School football team has proven that you can inspire an entire community though the acts of goodwill, character and teamwork."
Dungy, Heather Rebeor (Dylan's Mother), and a representative from each of the past "Fight Like Dylan Award" recipients served on this year's selection committee. To learn more about Dylan's story, visit www.FightLikeDylan.org.
Previous recipients of the "Fight Like Dylan Award" include: 2015: Central High School (Providence, RI) 2014: Shoreham Wading-River High School (Long Island, NY) 2013: Buena Vista High School (Buena Vista, CO) 2012: Williamsport High School (Williamsport, MD) 2011: Edmonson County High School (Edmonson, KY)
"The story of the Huntington football team is proof of how a group of spirited individuals can make a lasting impression," said Heather Rebeor. "It has truly been a rewarding experience to have Dylan's legacy continue through the Russell Athletic "Fight Like Dylan" Award."
About RUSSELL BRANDS, LLC For more than 100 years, Russell Brands, LLC, has supplied America's athletes and teams with the latest innovations to help them perform at their best and is a leading supplier of apparel and team uniforms at the high school, college and professional levels. Russell's collegiate licensed products and athletic wear are broadly distributed and marketed through department stores, sports specialty stores, retail chains and college bookstores. Russell Athletic is the expert and defender of team sports in America. We take actions to build stronger teams. We stand for the fundamentals. Team On.