Larry Prout Jr. was born with numerous birth defects, including most of his major organs on the outside of his body. His parents were told he wouldn’t survive two weeks after birth. Fifteen years and over 90 surgeries later, Prout defied all odds and is now the newest member of the Michigan Wolverines football team.
This past week, “Michigan drafted Prout onto the football team as part of the Team IMPACT program, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of chronically ill children by setting them up with college athletic teams. The Wolverines welcomed him to their team Tuesday, as coach Jim Harbaugh and several players walked out into the public area at Schembechler Hall and shook his hand.”
When asked by reporters how long he has been a Wolverines fan, Prout simply said, “The whole time.” The event brought great joy to Prout as well as all those who attended.
The organization responsible for the draft, Team IMPACT, has since 2011 “matched more than 1,000 children with more than 400 colleges and universities across the country.”
Leading up to the ceremonial draft, Prout befriended Wolverines running back De’Veon Smith and quarterback John O’Korn last summer. The players grew close to Prout and his family, witnessing the amazing courage and strength of the 15-year-old.
Smith said, “When we first met him, we all noticed something special about him. Walking around the building, you saw him smiling… Then, we went to the Big House, and I threw him a pass. He ran all the way down the field, got a touchdown and spiked the ball. Being around Larry makes me really think I’m honestly blessed to have met him, and to learn not to take anything for granted… He’s mentally tough, and he has a high pain tolerance and Larry, he won’t let anything get in his way. There’s no such thing as adversity to him.”
Senior tight-end Jake Butt also believed Prout was an inspiration to the team. “You look at a kid like Larry and his family and the way they’re facing such great adversity and still up there smiling, and still up there so grateful just to be a part of this team. We’re grateful to have him on our team, and we’re grateful for the example that he’s setting for us.”
During the draft Prout read from a prepared statement, saying, “I stand here before you today as just one of the stories that can be told regarding the [patients] at the great university’s Mott Children’s Hospital… I also stand here as just one of the stories that could be told about many sick children and their families across the country. My heart goes out to all families of children with chronic illness.”
Prout added that he wants “children to not be afraid” and hopes his experience and example of perseverance will give courage to children fighting a chronic illness.
This isn’t the first time the Wolverines have welcomed a child with a chronic illness. In 2014, “The men’s lacrosse team similarly welcomed Brendan Randolph, a child with medically intractable epilepsy.”
Team IMPACT hopes that many more children with chronic illnesses will have their dreams realized, and noted that “600 teams…are interested in helping but have not yet been connected with a child.” It is a day to remember and gives children struggling with chronic illnesses reassurance that they have a whole team behind them, supporting them and cheering them on to fight the good fight.