Photo courtesy of Ethan Jeros
By Steve Sears
West Morris Mendham Minutemen football player, Shane Sullivan, was entered in the “Heart of a Giant” award contest, which honors tristate high school players for their character, commitment, dedication, teamwork, and will.
Thus far, the junior lineman has won round one, garnering for his school a $1,000 football equipment grant. Sullivan recorded for the next round a five-minute video which was submitted to USA Football, the New York Giants, and the Hospital for Special Surgery, the organizations that run the contest. If Sullivan wins the top prize, the football program would receive an additional $4,000 more in equipment grants, and the lineman will get a chance to hoist a trophy at halftime of a New York Giants game.
Sullivan, who is legally blind in his right eye and in his left eye has impaired vision, says, “I bring energy, definitely a physical-ness, and the will to never give up on a play and never give up on a drive.”
Ethan Jeros, first year football head coach at West Morris Mendham, echoes Sullivan’s statement “He brings an inspiring and contagious energy which is, when I took over, that was the one thing that I thought was lacking that I really wanted to change, was just the energy that he brings. And when I say contagious, it’s because guys will jump on board and follow his lead. It’s a never ending and consistent energy.” Jeros further adds, “He’s (Sullivan) one of the hardest workers, and that confidence is reared by his work ethic. I mention him constantly in front of the whole team to say, ‘Hey, we need to work like he does and we will be much better, including myself.”
“It means everything to me,” says Sullivan of donning a West Morris Mendham football uniform and being a member of the varsity. “All the coaches, my teammates – most of the teammates I’ve actually been friends with since sixth grade and fourth grade. Just to have so many teammates that I can call my friends who are basically my second family. And it’s just a blessing to be here.”
For Sullivan, who was finally allowed medically to play sports in middle school, perhaps the following tale most defines him. During a scrimmage, he broke one of his shoulders, but told no one. He didn’t want to miss the snap of the football. “Like two weeks went by, including a scrimmage. But when we were doing kickoff drills – oh my god – first I was trying to block with my two hands.” He still found a way to compete without quitting the drill. “But at the end of it, I was putting my right arm to my chest and only blocking with my left,” he says.
Sullivan, who turns 17 this month, will enter his senior season in 2022, and Jeros is happy to have him back. “I know one thing that will not change will be his attitude, because that’s something that I have not seen change in the over two years that I’ve known him. And his attitude is phenomenal. And that’s where I’m excited for him and for next year. Now he’ll be a senior and he’ll probably have even more confidence as a senior and as a leader, to be a guide to all the rest of the line and keep them all motivated.”
West Morris Mendham business teacher Justin Cararro says of Sullivan, “Shane sees the world how we all wish we saw the world.”
As for winning any award, Sullivan again humbly speaks with gratitude. “It’s just crazy that all these people see these things in me, and put in the time and effort for this award. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t even be in it. So, it’s not just me – it’s for everybody.”