Tylee Craft Honored With Disney Spirit Award on ESPN CFB Awards Show – University of North Carolina Athletics

University of North Carolina wide receiver Tylee Craft received Chapel Hill’s Disney Spirit Award at the ESPN College Football Awards. Craft was named a 2022 Disney Spirit Award recipient just eight months after nearly dying of lung cancer. Craft, 20, is now working to get his playing career back on track while also supporting other people going through similar medical issues.

Presented by the Walt Disney World Resort each season since 1996, the Disney Spirit Award is designed to honor the most inspirational figure in college football. Craft embodies the essence of the award after being diagnosed with stage 4 large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare form of lung cancer, on March 14, 2022. According to his family, doctors said he was just weeks away from dying. He was struggling with back pain that was debilitating, so UNC’s athletic training staff took him to the hospital for more tests to determine the cause of the pain, and then he was diagnosed. Physicians at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center immediately started Craft on an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

“It felt good to be recognized and to be surrounded by my teammates and coaches,” Craft said recently after practice on learning he’d won the award. “That bond we share on and off the field gets me through my days.”

The UNC community quickly rallied around Craft. Teammates frequently visited him in the hospital, and on April 9, the Tar Heels dedicated their annual Spring Football Game to Craft, renaming the event the #TyleeStrong Spring Game.

“Tylee has been an incredible influence on all of us. Whether it’s the team as a player, coach or staff, our university and our state,” said UNC head coach Mack Brown. “For me, the Disney Spirit Award is the best award a player has ever received because of its importance.”

With the support of his family, his UNC teammates and coaches, and his medical team, Craft has seen positive improvements in his condition. His cancer has been on the mend since May 3 and now he visits cancer patients at UNC Childrens every Friday before home games. He also serves as an ambassador for the White Ribbon Project, which raises awareness about lung cancer and supports those fighting the disease. It’s those actions, combined with his courage and perseverance, that made Craft the right choice for this year’s Disney Spirit Award.

“We can all draw inspiration from Tylee,” said Faron Kelley, vice president of Disney Sports. “The Disney Spirit Award honors people like Tylee who focus on helping others, even when faced with their own tremendous adversity.”

Kelley will present the Disney Spirit Award to Craft during the Home Depot College Football Awards on December 8, 2022. The award is presented annually to an inspirational figure on or off the field, including players, coaches, fans and cheerleaders. Craft’s irrepressible spirit and willingness to help others battle cancer helped him stand out in a season with several other strong nominees.

Craft is the 27th recipient of the Disney Spirit Award and the first from the University of North Carolina. The list of past honorees includes inspirational college football figures like former Boston College star Mark Warmth, another cancer survivor who won the award in 2009 and helped tell Craft’s story in a feature story for ESPN College GameDay earlier this year to tell season.

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