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Tufts football program 'drafting' 8-year-old Riley Roman

Posted by Craig Larson, Globe Staff  May 1, 2012 10:25 PM

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Adding to their 2012 class of recruits, the Tufts University football team will welcome Riley Roman to the program Wednesday afternoon at 3:30.

The Jumbos are hosting a a "draft day" at Ellis Oval/Zimman Field for Riley, an 8-year-old from South Hadley who was recently diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal brain tumor.

Patriots linebacker linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who met Riley on a hospital visit and has remained in close contact with him ever since, will be in attendance for the draft.

Riley and the Jumbos were brought together by Team IMPACT, a non-profit chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses by creating unparalleled team-based support systems. Four Team IMPACT board members are Tufts alumni, including Dan Kraft, Jay Calnan, Dan Walsh (Executive Director) and Kris Herman.

Riley has been treated at Children's Hospital Boston, undergoing major brain surgery where doctors removed part of the tumor. Since then, Riley has undergone a second brain surgery and is on his second round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Due to the intensive nature of the treatment, Riley must undergo this treatment in-patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and is currently living at the Ronald McDonald house with his mother.

Before being diagnosed, Riley was an avid athlete, playing on a number of different sports teams. His involvement with the Tufts football team will provide the opportunity to get back out on to the field with his new teammates, a dream come true as he continues his fight against cancer.

"We're excited to welcome Riley and his family to our football family," said Tufts head coach Jay Civetti.

"His spirit and the way he's fought against adversity are a great example for our team, and we hope he'll have a lot of fun as a Jumbo. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to partner with Team Impact and become involved in Riley's life."

Several local college teams have successfully joined with Team IMPACT, including the Tufts women's soccer team. They "drafted" Joli Talusan Vega, a 9-year-old from the South Shore who had eye cancer, as a member of the team in July 2011. She was given a uniform, sits on the team bench during games and participates in many other team activities.

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