Despite a rash of injuries, a Fairfield County high school football player has shown he has “The Heart of a Giant.”
St. Joseph High School student-athlete Christopher Kiley has been nominated for the prestigious award, which is sponsored in part through the New York Giants.
After tearing his meniscus in two spots, which meant more physical therapy and less football, Kiley beat his recovery time to return to the field and has led his team on and off the gridiron.
“While devastating initially on a personal level, especially as a high school senior, I took this as a challenge to work hard and regain my strength as quickly as possible,” Kiley said.
According to his coach, Kiley “gets this incredible sense of dedication from his father. Unfortunately, Kiley’s father was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma in 2018. Kiley’s father continued to be St. Joseph’s mascot throughout the football season, despite his sickness. After the first round of chemotherapy didn’t work, Kiley felt down.”
“However, if a small school like St. Joe’s could overcome impossible odds time after time, surely my dad could battle against his personal health challenge by using a bunch of kids as inspiration that nothing is ever impossible,” thought Kiley. Head Coach Joe DellaVecchia said, “He continues to be a leader to his teammates and his sister, and he has carried himself with grace, elegance and mental toughness through his situation which no one should have to bear.”
“My dad and I spent lots of time talking about Saint Joe’s football during his treatments and the following recovery periods,” Kiley said. “We recalled a St. Joe’s stunning comeback victory over rival Ridgefield when my team was down by 25 points early in the fourth quarter. We discussed an equally surprising victory over a strong Ansonia team to win the Class S State title in 2017. We counted down the weeks and then the days until conditioning and practices began for the new 2019 season.”
Through football, Kiley said he has been able to form bonds that exist both on and off the field while at St. Joseph High School.
“As a new student to St. Joe’s in my freshman year of high school, I knew only a handful of friends,” he said. “My goal was to make the freshmen football team. This meant attending conditioning sessions over the summer before school even began. Almost immediately, others in the same position as me opened up and bonds formed."
“We spent hours going over plays and getting ourselves in the best shape of our lives. We started to compete and we were successful. We never let up though," added Kiley. "Success should never be taken for granted, which is a significant life lesson. Friends became like brothers. A challenging schedule quickly taught us that we’re individually strong but almost invincible as a unit. No one player can succeed without the dedication, skill and selflessness of those around him.”
Each week, 10 football players in the Tri-state area are nominated for voting, and their communities have 25 days to vote them in.
Six finalists and four honorable mention finalists will be named. Each finalist will receive $1,000 for their school’s football program with the winner receiving an additional $9,000.
The grand prize winner will also be celebrated during an on-field ceremony at a Giants’ home game in December.
The nominees can be voted on here.
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