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“Team Impact” Draft Day for Rutgers Men’s Soccer

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15-Year-Old Andrew DiGiovanni of Rahway to Become Official Scarlet Knight While Courageously Battling Hemophilia

Photo Courtesy Meech Robinson, Rutgers Athletics

Andrew DiGiovanni, a Rahway native who attends Rahway High School, has officially signed to become a member of the Rutgers men’s soccer team in a ceremony held last Friday. This was not your normal student signing his National Letter of Intent (NLI), that all players sign to become scholarship athletes at Rutgers. Andrew’s signing was to recognize a young man with a life-threatening condition with which he deals every day.

As you can see from the tweet above, Andrew has hemophilia, a blood disorder that causes his blood not to coagulate when cut or bruised. For most kids, a bruise or a small cut is a distraction. Without medication for Andrew, it can be a matter of life and death.

Hemophilia is a life-long condition for which there is no cure, and you do not outgrow. Andrew describes how his family found out, and what it’s like to live with this disease: “It goes back to when I was seven months old. My mother started to see a lot of bruises on me and we went to the doctor and they weren’t sure what I had. They realized I had hemophilia. I started to realize that I had it when I was four or five years old because that’s when I started to have to injections with needles for my medication. Because of my family, I was able to be strong and because of them I was able to keep moving forward and live like a regular kid.”

Andrew DiGiovanni with his sister Gabriella, and his mother, Milinda
Photo courtesy Meech Robinson, Rutgers Athletics

Andrew is a huge fan of soccer, and due to his condition, can not play the sport. HIs connection to Rutgers soccer happened due to his connection with Team Impact, a national not-for-profit organization that connects young people facing chronic illnesses with college athletic teams. As you can imagine, the site is filled with heart-warming stories of children and young men and women who have had life-changing outcomes as a result their work.

The work of Team Impact has an effect not just on Andrew, but everyone connected with Rutgers soccer. As senior Midfielder/Defender Thomas Dovell stated:

“It’s not just what we do on the field, it’s about how we support the community and getting others involved in Rutgers soccer. It’s a great step for Rutgers soccer as a whole to reach out to Andrew and get him on board. It’s a great day both him and Rutgers soccer.”

Thomas Dovell
Photo courtesy Meech Robinson, Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers Head Coach Dan Donigan was moved, it was clear. This signing was as important as any he has had as a head coach, and he knows it has impact on his team as well as on Andrew.

Rutgers Soccer Head Coach Dan Donigan with Andrew DiGiovanni
Photo Courtesy Meech Robinson, Rutgers Athletics

As Coach Donigan said, ““It was really a special day. I’ll never forget today. Andrew is a phenomenal kid. His personality, his fight, his passion, his energy is what it’s all about. We are in a position as coaches and Division I Big Ten student-athletes, we are here to help each other. We want to be a positive influence for him and know he has people in his corner to help him through his daily fight. He gives us a lot of inspiration. It’s not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street where we are learning from him and hopefully he’s getting some support from us.”

Understandably, Andrew was a bit nervous about the actual signing of his NLI. While he had trouble believing it was really happening, he was excited as you could imagine. As he said, “When I signed the contract, I want to say I was relieved because I was so nervous. As I was writing my name, my hand started shaking because I was nervous. It was like I was on the spot. It’s now official, these are my teammates. They are with me and I’m with them.”

Flanked by Athletic Director Pat Hobbs and Head Coach Dan Donnigan, Andrew DiGiovanni signs his NLI backed up by his new teammates on the Rutgers Soccer team.
Photo Courtesy Meech Robinson, Rutgers Athletics

This goes beyond just a young man signing a National Letter of Intent with Rutgers. It also points to what Andrew means to the rest of his new teammates. As Tom Dovell said, “Andrew is a great kid. His strength and his courage is really going to push our team to the next level and it’s great just having him around. We’ve been hanging out with him, been getting to know him better. It’s just great to have him here finally on the Rutgers soccer team.”

Below is a video of the events of the day leading up to Andrew becoming a team member of @RUMensSoccer.

Congratulations, Andrew on your becoming an official Scarlet Knight! From all of us, Be Strong, Stay Strong, and Become Strong!!!

Andrew and his family seated, surrounded by his new extended family of Rutgers Men’s Soccer!
Photo Courtesy Meech Robinson, Rutgers Athletics