Ex-Eagle offers students insight into physical challenges
(taken from courierpostonline.com)
MONROE — Former Philadelphia Eagle and cancer survivor Kevin Reilly came off the page and into the classroom Thursday for a visit with special needs students at Williamstown High School.
The class has been reading about Reilly in “Insightful Player,” a 2011 book by Chrissy Carew about athletes who overcame adversity. When the opportunity came to have the former linebacker speak to the class, teacher Stacey Zentz couldn’t resist.
“They love him because he is local and he played for the Eagles. His story speaks to a lot of the kids.”
In 1973, Reilly’s dreams came true when he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. After bouncing around to a few teams, the Delaware native and former Villanova standout landed in Philadelphia as an Eagle.
But a few years into his career, he was diagnosed with a rare scar tissue tumor.
To stop the spread of cancer, his left arm and part of his left shoulder were amputated.
“Laying in the hospital bed, different thoughts began to flood my mind,” Reilly recalled.
“Would I be able to drive? Zip up a jacket? Go for a jog?
“I began to throw a pity party for myself.”
But his mindset changed after he met fellow NFL player Robert Patrick “Rocky” Bleier, who was badly injured in Vietnam but came back to win four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Rocky talked to me about limitations,” Reilly recalled. “About the power of the human spirit, something that is in all of us.”
With hard work and a lot of rehabilitation, Reilly was able to overcome the limitations experts predicted he would have.
Reilly’s appearance marked the first assembly for Insightful Player, a New Hampshire-based organization that promotes charitable works and inspirational stories by and from former NFL players.
Founder Carew hopes the book and the organization will “lift the spirit of the human race.”
While students in the high school class were quiet at first, they quickly opened up to Reilly’s personality. He showed the students how he knots a tie and even challenged one to a shoelace-tying race.
One student asked, “What is your favorite color?”
Reilly, now a broadcaster on the Eagles Network, responded, “Blue — but don’t tell the Eagles.”
Another student asked “How do you eat?” Reilly said he has a special knife, so he can cut food with one hand.
Zentz saw Reilly’s appearance as a positive for students.
“It’s fantastic to have someone step up and say ‘I’m different and you’re different, but that’s OK because we can be different together and that is cool,’ ” said Zentz.