Football Introduces Newest Bulldog and Hosts Youth Day
Saturday was a special afternoon at Drake Stadium as the Drake University football team introduced the newest Bulldog, Jack Conlon.
Jack, a 7-year-old from Clarion, Iowa, joined his teammates on the field where – surrounded by the team’s back-to-back Pioneer Football League trophies – he signed a commitment letter to become a Bulldog. After a raucous welcome upon his signing, the team captains took Jack to his permanent locker in the center of the Drake locker room where he received his uniform, helmet and all the equipment issued to every Bulldog.
However, Jack’s journey to become a Bulldog has not been an easy one. In September of 2011, Jack was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a common form of a tumor. Following surgery, he spent nearly eight weeks in Boston receiving radiation and treatment to combat the tumor and continues to regain his strength while undergoing tests to ensure his cancer remains in remission.
Jack spent time with the Bulldogs during spring practices and was united with the Bulldogs via Team IMPACT, a Boston-based non-profit organization chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto local college athletic teams and, to the greatest extent possible, become an official member of the team for the duration of their treatment and beyond.
“We’re genuinely excited about him being part of our program,” Drake head coach Chris Creighton said. “We can’t wait for our relationship with Jack and the Conlon family to grow and become something really special.”
Jack’s relationship with the Bulldogs extends far beyond this season as Drake head coach Chris Creighton explained prior to him signing his commitment letter alongside his parents, Tom and Nikki Conlon.
“Every single one of the guys who is a member of our football team signed a commitment letter to be a member of our football team and not everyone that wants to be a Drake Bulldog can be a Drake Bulldog,” Creighton told Jack. “We are choosing you to be a part of our football family here at Drake. This is not just for right now, or this season, this is forever. When you’re a Drake Bulldog football player, you’re a Bulldog forever. We respect you for being a tough and courageous guy and we want you to be part of our family.”
With his spot on the roster and locker in the locker room, Jack will be more than welcome to join the Bulldogs for practices, games and other team activities whenever he wishes. The relationship between Jack and his teammates is a two-way street as his battles to regain his health embody the Bulldogs’ theme of ‘No Matter What.’
“You live this out more than any other guy,” team captain Brandon Coleman told Jack of how his battle relates to the theme. “What this means for us is that no matter the circumstances on or off the field, we will not let those circumstances how we live and the attitude we live with.”
In addition to the lessons learned by both parties, the team captains emphasized their desire for Conlon to have a consistent and comfortable role on the team.
“We want to impact his life, have him come here, be comfortable with us and have the freedom to be himself knowing that he has the support of more than 100 guys here,” captain Kevin Marshall said.
In addition to Jack’s introduction, Saturday was also Youth Day at Drake Stadium.
Droves of elementary school age children took to the turf with the Bulldogs to go through various stations featuring drills and the opportunity to individually interact with Drake student-athletes.
The Youth Day activities added to what is one of the busiest, but most important days of fall camp for the Bulldogs.
“Today encompasses our whole program, doing film in the morning, welcoming Jack and giving back to the community with Youth Day,” Creighton said. “Tonight we’re going to have a ‘get after it scrimmage’ where guys are being evaluated and trying to get better. This is a big day for our program.”
The Bulldogs’ scrimmage will get underway at 6 p.m. as the squad continues to prepare for the season opener Grand View on Aug. 29. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Drake Stadium. To purchase season or individual game tickets for the upcoming season, click here.