Wesley Football | Sack Muscle Disease

Wolverines Join Muscle Movement Foundation for Second Consecutive Season

THE WOLVERINES DEDICATE HOME GAME IN HONOR OF MUSCLE CHAMPIONS ON 9/10/2016  AT DRASS FIELD

DOVER, DE - Head Coach Mike Drass, and the Wesley College Wolverines undoubtedly play with a purpose. The team's remarkable statistics and national ranking each year speaks for itself. To put the team's success into perspective, the Wolverines have made the DIII National Playoffs for eleven straight years. Of those eleven years, the Wolverines have made the national semi-finals six times! Much of the team's success is credited to Coach Drass. Since Drass took over the reins of the Wesley football program in 1993, the Wolverines have only accumulated winning seasons. He has been deemed one of the winningest coaches in Division III history, and also serves as the school's Director of Athletics!

Drass is accompanied by Associate Head Coaches, Chip Knapp and Steve Azzanesi, who instill the champion mindset into their student-athletes. Winning, a common attribute of the Wesley football program, is the result of months of planning and preparation. Successfully completing months of strength and conditioning drills, and hours of play review and repetitions, the Wolverines are ready to win come the start of the season. Acknowledging the importance of "team effort", Drass and coaches decided to take initiative in using their success to join another team this 2016 season.

The Wesley College Football Team joined the Muscle Movement Foundation for the second consecutive season; playing with a purpose to "Sack Muscle Disease"! After learning about the Muscle Movement Foundation, and the individualized experience the MMF creates for their "Muscle Champions", Coach Drass and the Wolverines took initiative in bringing a team effort to the fight against neuromuscular disease. On Thursday, September 8th, Coach Drass invited MMF Founder, Rob DeMasi, to speak at practice. DeMasi shared his inspiring muscle disease survivor story, and importance of the Muscle Movement Foundation with the team, which was followed by a message about the importance of "effort" in life. Concluding Thursday's practice, the players were excited to take the field in efforts to record a win in honor of their "Muscle Champion".

  Head Coach Mike Drass and Muscle Movement Foundation Founder, Rob DeMasi. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics.

Head Coach Mike Drass and Muscle Movement Foundation Founder, Rob DeMasi. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics.

  MMF Founder, Rob DeMasi, speaking to a group of players at Thursday's practice. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics.

MMF Founder, Rob DeMasi, speaking to a group of players at Thursday's practice. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics.

  Wesley Coach Bernie Nowakowski and the MMF's, Rob DeMasi, huddling the team. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics.

Wesley Coach Bernie Nowakowski and the MMF's, Rob DeMasi, huddling the team. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics.

Saturday, September 10, 2016, Wesley College President, Robert E. Clark II, Coach Drass, and the Wolverines welcomed DMD Muscle Champion, Eddie Hazeldine, for the second consecutive year as the team's honorary captain! Eddie served as the Wolverine's "Muscle Champion" in 2015 after Drass and team learned of his story. The team specifically requested for Eddie to be their honorary captain once again at Drass Field at Scott D. Miller Stadium.

Eddie Hazeldine is a DMD Muscle Champion- a 14 year old boy living and refusing to lose to duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a genetic disease that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness throughout the body. It is 100% fatal, and often causes the affected individual to lose their ability to walk between 7-13 years of age. As Eddie celebrates a birthday each year, it is a bitter sweet feeling for his family. Each year, Eddie has grown weaker and weaker. In the beginning of the 2015 football season, Eddie could successfully walk from the sideline to the center of a football field. Come Wesley's final 2015 regular season game, Eddie failed to do so. Wesley's 2015 Captain and current Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Joe Callahan, assisted Eddie to the coin toss last season. Eddie was able to walk from the sideline to the field's yard marker, and transferred to his wheelchair to be pushed by Mr. Callahan the rest of the way. This year Eddie has completely lost his ability to stand and walk, and relies on a wheelchair to operate. Starting Junior Linebacker, Samer Manna, proudly took over for Callahan this year, pushing Eddie to the 50 yard line with the rest of the team's captains. Although Eddie is affected by the weakness caused by DMD, his mentality remains strong and his effort - relentless.

  Photo courtesy of Wesley College Athletics. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics

Photo courtesy of Wesley College Athletics. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics

  DMD Muscle Champion, Eddie Hazeldine, and the Wesley Football Captains shake hands with Frostburg State to begin the coin toss. Photo courtesy of Wesley College Athletics. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics

DMD Muscle Champion, Eddie Hazeldine, and the Wesley Football Captains shake hands with Frostburg State to begin the coin toss. Photo courtesy of Wesley College Athletics. Copyright 2016, Wesley College Athletics

Eddie, representing for his fellow "Muscle Champions" - over one million Americans affected by neuromuscular disease, smiled ear to ear sitting with the Wesley Wolverines. After every Wesley Wolverine football player stood proudly during the National Anthem, Wesley College honored another special individual. Wesley College honored the life of DMD Muscle Champion, Marc Gonzalez, who passed away from the effects of DMD this past summer. Marc was a fifteen year old boy with a strong passion for football, more specifically J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Despite living with extreme weakness in his hands, Marc relentlessly created a masterpiece of J.J. Watt, which was created with charcoal and chalk. The Muscle Movement Foundation immediately joined his family's efforts in raising awareness to help Marc meet his idol. Marc Gonzalez and mother, Vicky, were invited to the Houston Texans training camp where Marc met his idol face-to-face. Vicky and Marc presented J.J. Watt with custom Muscle Movement Foundation "Sack Muscle Disease" training gear to proudly represent for Marc throughout the season. J.J. Watt granted Marc's wish, but Marc's highlight of the day was when Watt signed Marc's portrait! When asked why Marc idolized J.J. Watt, his proud response:

"His strength and courage."

Marc refused to lose to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy with that very same strength and courage, not letting the disease define him. MMF Founder, Rob DeMasi, promised Marc's family that the Muscle Movement Foundation would carry the legacy of Marc into every football season. The Wolverines were proud to hold a moment of silence in honor of the strong and courageous, Marc Gonzalez.

  Photo credit: Shannon Baty, KHOU 11 News

Photo credit: Shannon Baty, KHOU 11 News

The Wesley Wolverines concluded the game with a stellar performance, claiming victory over Frostburg State, 43-7! Coach Drass and the team proudly dedicated their team win to Eddie Hazeldine! Several players on the Wesley College Football Team stayed after the game to congratulate Eddie on his win and share their thoughts about the Muscle Movement Foundation. One of those players happened to be former Wesley All-American Guard, current coach, and the Muscle Movement Foundation's newest advocate, Devin Filliben! Last season, Filliben took initiative in joining the MMF and informed Coach Drass about the positive impact the MMF has made in his local community of Northern Delaware. Filliben, now a coach, transitioned to another lead role for the Wolverines and wanted to continue to incorporate the MMF's motivational message with his team.

"Having the opportunity to work with the Muscle Movement Foundation last season was inspiring. Seeing a young man, at just 13 years of age, struggle to simply walk, was hard for me. After hearing Rob DeMasi educate the team about Eddie's disease, it was clear to me how much of a champion Eddie is. Everyday being able to adapt, overcome, and persevere, despite his obstacles, is something I think we all need to learn to do, consistently. It motivated me to embrace my opportunity and privilege of being a collegiate athlete, and it was important for me as a coach to instill this important message into our young athletes."
-Devin Filliben

In addition to Filliben (A.I. du Pont High School), Delaware natives Alex Kemp (Caesar Rodney High School), Jamai Rice (Saint Mark's High School), and Mike Sabino (Lake Forest High School) stayed after the game and explained how special it was to work with DeMasi -also a Delaware native (Saint Mark's High School) - and the MMF, in order to help an individual in need from their home state. After the players said their goodbyes and the team made their way to the locker room, one coach was the last to leave the field. Coach Bernie Nowakowski (Saint Mark's High School graduate), stayed on the field to leave Eddie with one final goodbye.

"Eddie, I want to thank you for being here with us today. It means a lot to all of us. And I want you to know something. You matter buddy, and you keep fighting. You're so strong and I want you to know something. Every time I wake up at 5 a.m. to start my day with a workout, I am going to be thinking of you buddy. Every rep, every lift, I'll be thinking of you. Because I'm inspired by how strong you truly are. Keep up the great work."
-Bernie Nowakowski

Winning on the field is important to Coach Drass and the Wolverines, but winning off the field is essential. Moving their muscles to compete in a sport they love, the Wolverines have created an experience that will last a lifetime for Eddie. If you would like to contribute to the Wolverines' efforts in providing support to Eddie Hazeldine, please email Themmo2012@gmail.com, or make a contribution of any size at www.musclemovementfoundation.org.

Special thanks to Mike Drass, Robert E. Clark II, Devin Filliben, Brett Ford, and all coaches and players!

 

Wesley College Football

Play with a Purpose to Sack Muscle Disease!

  (left to right): MMF volunteer Raymond Otlowski, Eddie Hazeldine, Rob DeMasi, and Wesley's Brett Ford

(left to right): MMF volunteer Raymond Otlowski, Eddie Hazeldine, Rob DeMasi, and Wesley's Brett Ford