Kurt Coleman knows what it is like to have a father battle an illness. So too does Matt Daniels, a former walk-on athlete at Ohio State.
One season ago, Daniels hosted a charity video game event to benefit research for kidney disease as his father Joe, OSU’s quarterbacks coach, battled kidney cancer. Dubbed the Uplifting Athletes Video Game Challenge, the event was such a success that Coleman decided to stage the event for a second year at a larger location.
And so it was that at a Damon’s restaurant near campus on a cloudy August afternoon, more than 60 Buckeyes came together to play video games and raise both money and awareness to fight Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological order that has stricken quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s father.
Coleman, a senior safety for the Buckeyes whose father Ron has battled breast cancer, said he was glad the members of the football team were able to give something back to the community.
“I think we’re in a fortunate position for us to go out and make a great difference in the world and the community,” he said. “This is just one way that we do that. This is a chance to help out Terrelle Pryor and his dad and his family.”
The event was centered around a 16-person NCAA Football tournament. Players gathered in the restaurant and had as many as four games going at one time on the room’s big screens while fans who had paid various amounts of money mingled throughout collecting autographs and pictures. Dozens of players who were not playing in the tournament were spread out throughout the room, meeting with fans.
But the main focus was on raising awareness for CMT disease, a rare disorder that strikes 1 in 2,500 people. Coleman first approached Pryor about bringing light to his family’s cause to make sure he had the blessing of the quarterback.
As it turned out, he didn’t need to worry.
“I went to him privately … and he just had the biggest smile on his face,” Coleman said. “He said, ‘I’d love for you guys to do that.’ After that, we started moving forward and we were ready to go.”
Coleman took over the title of chapter president this year and oversaw growth across the board in the size and scope of the event.
“It’s not an easy thing to deal with,” Coleman said. “Speaking to people with CMT, this is a disease that depresses them. This gives us a chance as uplifters to do something greater than us.”
Had Pryor preferred to keep the situation private, Coleman said the money raised would have gone to benefit breast cancer research. When he approached Pryor, Coleman said the quarterback got a big smile on his face.
Pryor participated in the tournament but left early after speaking briefly with the media, citing a migraine headache.
“It’s important to me, and I’m happy that (Coleman) asked me,” Pryor said. “Anything can help. It’s not something big that’s raising a lot of money, but it’s something that it’s a thought and that’s all that matters.”
Pryor said he had not spoken with his father, Craig, to tell him about the event because his dad just recently got married and has been busy with that. His father was initially diagnosed with the disease when he was 21, Pryor said, and has battled it throughout his son’s life. He is primarily confined to a wheelchair.
Although it is a disease that is genetic, Pryor said it skips a generation.
“Maybe my kids or my brother’s kids or my sister’s kids (might get it),” he said.
While taking part in the tournament, Pryor was visited by Daniels, who has moved into an office job with the team after serving as the quarterbacks coach. Daniels said he wanted to make sure he stopped by to show support for a player he helped recruit.
The Buckeyes already take part in a large number of predetermined charity events such as spending time at children’s hospitals and the like. This was different because it was something the players themselves chose to be a part of, Coleman said.
“This is something I could really get my hands on and be a part of and really leave my mark here,” he said. “I think this is something that guys will take upon themselves to carry on the tradition. It’s a great way to give back.”
The event was put on with the assistance of Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit organization that aims to aim college football at raising awareness for rare diseases. In all, six colleges have chapters within Uplifting Athletes, and Daniels founded OSU’s chapter last season.
Last year’s event raised $2,500. Final totals for this year’s event were not immediately available.
The primary goal was not necessarily a monetary one, Coleman said.
“Someone that we don’t know may want to step forward after this year and talk to us (about a disease,” Coleman said. “It’s something that a lot of people want to keep to themselves, but this is a way for us to get the word out and spread the cause.”