At the tender ages of 12 and 8, Elijah Davis and Jackson Dundon are already the most prized recruits in Georgetown University’s history – if eligible; they’d only be sophomores for the Hoyas this year.
Unfortunately, their age and ailments prevent them from participating at the collegiate level. Both suffer from separate cases of brain cancer, but together, they have found a way to still participate in the complete Hoya gridiron experience.
In 2014, special teams coach Kevin Doherty spearheaded an effort to unite community and team with these two young men through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation – an initiative inspired by brain tumor survivor Jaclyn Murphy.
Georgetown decided to recruit and offer an opportunity for Elijah and Jackson to become a part of the Hoya football program as honorary members.
“We give these guys complete access to our program, players and our families”, said Coach Doherty. “If these two are around, we drop everything to accommodate them, without hesitation.”
Under the direction of head coach Rob Sgarlata, the Hoyas brought out all of the stops for Elijah and Jackson’s signing day experience. There were banners, cheerleaders, community of supporters, Georgetown’s mascot: Jack the Bulldog and Dennis Murphy – father of Jaclyn Murphy, at their commitment press conference.
“It was an emotional day, but it was also a lot of fun for our football team and for Jackson and Elijah”, said Doherty. “It was pretty cool.”
Since then, Jackson and Elijah can be seen all throughout the Georgetown football facilities, doing exactly what their Hoya teammates might do. The Georgetown student-athletes have fully bought into the concept of giving these two recruits an experience like no other, as well. On days where both Jackson and Elijah are on campus, they’ll spit between the offensive and defensive units and give them encouragement or a tough time about their last performance.
They’ve gotten comfortable enough to be honest with their fellow teammates.
“I think it brings us closer together”, said Coach Doherty. “The coaches preach ‘family’, so when the team sees us reaching out with efforts like this, they begin to realize how serious we are about creating that type of culture.”
Coach Doherty’s purpose, isn’t just for show either.
“Elijah’s stayed the weekend at my family’s house and gone on vacation with us before”, said Doherty. “He’s become like a second son to me.”
Overall, the gesture is great, but the impact on the lives of not only Jackson and Elijah, have changed for the better. While Jackson is close to being able to participate in physical activity and Elijah’s situation improves, the true breakthrough comes in the lesson that the coaches often overlooked before meeting Jackson and Elijah.
“It makes you live in the day”, Doherty said. “Life is precious… for me, it’s just been a constant reminder on how to live.”
All-in-all, it was a historic day for the Georgetown community and a true eye-opener for the program.
You won’t see Elijah or Jackson’s name in the box score, but their impact on the Georgetown football culture speaks volumes.