Russell Athletic has awarded Central High School in Providence, Rhode Island the 2015 “Fight Like Dylan Award.” The award, celebrating its fifth year, honors high school programs around the nation that have demonstrated inspiring determination and perseverance through sports. A distinguished panel of judges, led by former NFL coach Tony Dungy, selected Central High School after reviewing hundreds of submissions sent in by coaches, administrators, community members, parents and former athletes from across the country.
The “Fight Like Dylan” award is a tribute to Dylan Rebeor’s memory as one who selflessly inspired his teammates while fighting his own personal battle to live. Dylan’s story of determination and tireless dedication to his teammates anchors the “Fight Like Dylan” program. In 2010, he was diagnosed with cancer, but after becoming ill, his commitment to his team never wavered. His final wish was for his team to receive new uniforms for the upcoming season through the “Make A Wish Foundation.” The “Fight Like Dylan Award” was established by Russell Athletic in conjunction with Dylan’s family and coaches to not only grant that wish but also to celebrate other teams facing adversity and turning it into a powerful story of success through teamwork.
“Dylan had an extraordinary life and always inspired others while dealing with difficult circumstances,” said Heather Rebeor, Dylan’s mother. “We’re so proud that Dylan’s memory and spirit lives on through the Russell Athletic ‘Fight Like Dylan Award.’”
Central High School follows in the footsteps of Dylan and the previous four recipients of the award named for him, all of whom have exemplified a dedication to overcoming obstacles and rallying their communities around a common goal.
The Central football team and community epitomize what it means to persevere during adversity. In 2015, the Knights reached the state playoffs and recorded their first winning season since 2011 while dealing with the tragic loss of one of their key players, George Holland II, was fatally shot when attacked by local gang member made all that more tragic due to the fact that Holland was an innocent bystander and not a target of the gang. Stepping up to help the team navigate this tragedy as well as for overall funding and resource challenges, and a variety of personal/family crises was head coach Peter Rios and a core of team leaders. The team has acted as a family for its players both on and off the field, providing both hope and opportunity.
I always go into a season talking about character, and the character of becoming responsible young men,” Rios told USA TODAY High School Sports. “My charge is to teach that along the way, along with the X’s and O’s. I tell the kids all the time, wins and losses come and go. What you become will last forever. When we go through adversity, I tell the kids all the time that we must take the good with the bad and we have to cope with it. We seem to unite the most when adversity hits us. I think the team got the closest when George Holland II died. … It just made us stronger and rededicated to football.”
One of Central’s captains for the 2015 season, Tyrone Silva, is no stranger to gun violence. His father was shot to death when Tyrone was 2. He told USA TODAY High School Sports’ Cam Smith that he has attended 10 funerals for family and friends – all by the time he was 18. “Our loss made us really reunite closer to each other,” Silva told USA Today High School Sports. “It was a really tough time the few months after he died. It affected us in a good and bad way; it made us realize how close we should be with each other. Every day in practice, we would count off to George’s name. Everything we did we dedicated to George. It made us closer as brothers.”
“It’s tough to put into words how much this will mean to our players and overall community,” said Peter Rios, Central High School head football coach, athletic director and teacher. “We are so grateful to Russell Athletic and everyone involved with the ‘Fight Like Dylan Award’ to recognize us with this prestigious accolade.”
The team effort was so inspiring that it stood out among the other award applications – even to a tough NFL coach like Tony Dungy. “Stories like Central High School are the reason I got involved with this tremendous program and am proud to partner with Russell Athletic to recognize the Knights this year,” Coach Dungy said. “Among the hundreds of entries were numerous worthy candidates all honoring Dylan’s life and the meaning of this award. The way that Central rallied the entire school and surrounding community was truly inspiring.”
“Each year there are numerous deserving high schools that make this decision difficult. We received hundreds of entries from across the country, and the fifth year of the program proved to be just as tough selecting a winner,” said Robby Davis, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Russell Athletic. “We are inspired by this team and all of the students, faculty and supporting community at Central High School. It is an honor to present this award to them.”
“Our family’s hearts were immediately touched when we read Central’s story,” Heather Rebeor said . “These young men show the same team spirit that Dylan did, and I’m so glad they are getting the support through the ‘Fight Like Dylan Award.’ This year has been another tremendous one for this very special program, and I know Dylan is proud.”
Last year’s “Fight Like Dylan Award” recipient was Shoreham-Wading River High School in Shoreham, NYC (Long Island), which honored fallen teammate Tom Cutinella who embodied the spirit of teamwork and sportsmanship. Tom rallied the team around the idea of being the Long Island Champions. Through his inspiration, the Wildcats finished 10-0 and won the Long Island title.
The winner of the “Fight Like Dylan Award” receives a $50,000 grant in athletic apparel and sports equipment for their school. To submit an entry, head to FightLikeDylan.org to share how your team utilized teamwork to accomplish team goals or overcame challenging obstacles to achieve success in the community through sports.