The high school in Buena Vista, Colo., earned an annual award from athletic apparel manufacturer Russell Brands after it demonstrated courage and perseverance following a tragic event in September.
Russell named the school the third annual recipient of its “Fight Like Dylan” award and provided a $50,000 grant for team uniforms and equipment. The award honors the life of Dylan Rebeo, a terminally ill football player from Tennessee who died at the age of 16 just hours before his high school football team won their first state championship. His final wish was for his teammates to receive new uniforms through the Make-A-Wish foundation for the upcoming season.
The town of Buena Vista was chosen as the recipient of Russell’s Dylan award after a rock slide took the lives of five hikers, including assistant football coach Dwayne Johnson and his wife, track and field coach Dawna Johnson. Three other family members also passed away. The couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Gracie Johnson, survived the ordeal.
"Buena Vista's story is truly inspiring, especially in the way that the team and community rallied around this tragedy, and showed how athletics can be a powerful motivator in the most troubling of times,” said Gary Barfield, SVP of Russell Athletic. “We are honored to celebrate Dylan's life and the lives of Dwayne and Dawna Johnson and their loved ones through this grant to Buena Vista High School."
Select members of the Buena Vista High School community traveled to Orlando and were recognized on-field on during the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 28.
Past recipients of the Dylan award included Williamsport High School in Maryland and Edmonson County High School in Kentucky. After losing senior standout athletes Samantha Kelly and Brendon Colliflower in a car accident on their prom night, both the Williamsport volleyball and baseball teams went on to win the state championships the following season.
Edmonson's football team banded together to find success following the news of three-year starting offensive lineman Jacob Irwin being diagnosed with cancer during his senior season.
To be eligible for the award, teams submitted their stories on the Russell Athletic Facebook page explaining how their team overcame a challenge or triumphed in the face of adversity while embodying Dylan's spirit and courage in his battle against cancer. Submissions are evaluated by a panel that includes former pro football head coach and current NBC Sports Football analyst Tony Dungy and pro football players Mark Ingram, Pierre Garcon and Colt McCoy. Dylan's mother and former Columbia Central High School head coach Vance Belew also are part of the selection process.