NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — He refused to let cancer get in the way of playing football, and now a New Jersey high school student has been presented an award he calls a dream come true.
The award was presented to him at his school by one of his favorite NFL players, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
“My name is Sebastian Quinn, and I have the heart of a Giant,” the recipient said in a YouTube video, and JPP seemed to agree. The pro bowler personally handed this year’s ‘Heart of a Giant’ award to Quinn on stage at Mendham High School.
Sebastian’s entire junior class, coaches, parents, and seven siblings were all there for the surprise announcement.
“I still think it’s kind of a dream,” he said. “I don’t believe it.”
“It’s just such an incredible honor,” his mom Jessica said. “He’s been through so much.”
In 2014, Sebastian was diagnosed with ALCL Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. After going through chemotherapy, spending months in the hospital, and even having a relapse, he never gave up fighting and playing football.
Everyone around him says he truly demonstrated commitment, character, teamwork, dedication, and willpower. It proved to be enough to win USA Football’s Heart of a Giant award.
“You hear stories about people who quit and they always regret it,” Sebastian said.
For four years, USA Football, Hospital for Special Surgery, and the New York Giants have given the award to a player in the Tri-State Area. Coaches nominate and ten players are announced per week over six weeks. Then, finalists must make a video like the one Sebastian submitted.
“He didn’t even care about the diagnosis,” his mom said in the YouTube video. “He just wanted to play football and be with his friends.”
“He’s only one of five on the East Coast to have this relapse he had and still be living,” Sebastian’s father Eric said.
The excitement for Sebastian doesn’t stop at his school. On Sunday, he will be recognized on the field with the Giants at their home game against the Philadelphia Eagles. His whole family also has sideline passes to the game.
“With all the trials and tribulations he’s been through, he is not only an inspiration for his classmates and his team, he’s also an inspiration for me,” JPP said during the award presentation.