The Neumann University Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development is pleased to kick off its 20th anniversary year by honoring former Philadelphia Eagle and cancer survivor, Kevin Reilly as the 2018-2019 Institute Award recipient on January 31, 2019 at 7:00 pm.
Kevin Reilly’s journey began as a standout three-sport athlete at Salesianum High-School in Wilmington, Delaware starring in baseball, basketball and football. Reilly’s campaign as a multisport athlete landed him a football scholarship at Villanova University. Prior to graduating, Kevin Reilly declared for the NFL draft in 1973 and was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round. Reilly ended up coming back home later in 1973 and was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles. While serving as a captain for the Eagles special teams, his stint in Philadelphia lasted for two seasons before ending his career with the New England Patriots in 1975.
Sporting an all-American smile, Reilly looks the part of a former professional athlete, but what is most noticeable about the youthful-looking 67-year-old is his left shirt sleeve, which hangs empty. The absence of that limb has defined Reilly’s life–for the worst initially, and now, for the better.
In 1976, Kevin Reilly was diagnosed with a desmoid tumor. Reilly was in for the fight of his life. A desmoid tumor is an abnormal growth that arises from connective tissue, which is the tissue that provides strength and flexibility to structures such as muscles, ligaments and bones. For three years, while working at Xerox, Reilly braved surgery after surgery. In 1979, doctors finally told Reilly that the only way to get the cancer out of his body was to amputate his arm, shoulder blade and five ribs. After a dangerous eleven-hour procedure, Kevin Reilly would wake up a new man ready to embark on the next stage of life.
“Kevin Reilly’s courageous life story and how he continues to live life with a deep sense of purpose is rooted in how he prepared for life-threatening surgery. In the moment he was wheeled into the operating room, Kevin recalled that the only thing that really mattered to him was his relationship with God saying ‘If I never awoke from surgery, nothing else would’” said Sister Marguerite O’Beirne, Vice President Mission & Ministry.
Reilly went from the fear of not surviving surgery to waking up without an arm. In the years following the surgery, Reilly weathered divorce and battled substance abuse. His message is not especially unique, but his commitment to helping others is rare. If others are in pain, he simply wants to help. He’s there to tell them that no matter how tough it gets, they can face their opponents and their demons, too. Despite all of the struggles Kevin Reilly encountered, he went on to live a very accomplished life, impacting thousands of individuals along the way.
After leaving Xerox in 2006 following a stellar 30-year career within the organization, Kevin Reilly began a new journey to share the message of hope to those in need and has become a motivational speaker, author and influence to thousands of people across the country. Kevin Reilly’s story, reflected in his book “Tackling Life: How Faith, Family, Friends and Fortitude Kept an NFL Linebacker in the Game,” isn’t just about survival. It’s a journey of overcoming seemingly impossible difficulties to become a real champion and inspiration to others. Despite many experts saying he would never be able to, Kevin went on to do things that will make you marvel at the power of will when confronted with a life-altering challenge.
Lee DelleMonache, Director for the Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development is eager to welcome Kevin Reilly to Neumann University. “Kevin Reilly’s inspirational story of faith and resilience and his generous, endearing spirit are why I am so very excited for the tremendous learning opportunity Kevin’s visit will afford the Neumann University community.” Sr. Marguerite added “It is truly a privilege for the Neumann University community to hear Kevin’s inspirational story of how Faith, Family, Friends and Fortitude continues to strengthen him in the face of life’s challenging adversities,”
About Kevin Reilly
A qualified peer visitor at the Walter Reed National Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Reilly offers counseling to veteran amputees. Kevin hosts the pre-game and post-game radio show for all Philadelphia Eagles games live on 94.1 WYSP-FM, Sports Radio 610WIP-AM and WDEl. He never gave up sports altogether – he is an avid runner and golfer, two of the many things people told him would be impossible after his surgery. In addition to his announcing duties, Kevin is a Board member with the Easter Seals nonprofit charitable organization.
He lends his talents to numerous charities and is an auctioneer for over a dozen auctions for various charities each year. After discovering how to overcome the challenges in his life, he works as a motivational speaker, delivering his inspirational message toaudiences at corporate functions, commencement ceremonies, fundraisers and roasts. In honor of his achievements on the field, Kevin was appointed to three sports halls of fame: Salesianum High School, Villanova University and the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. He has motivated thousands with his journey of overcoming illness and unbelievable obstacles. In 2017, Kevin Reilly authored and released the book “Tackling Life: How Faith, Family, Friends, and Fortitude Kept an NFL Linebacker in the Game.”
Since 2014, the Award has been given in honor of the late Joseph P. McFadden, Bishop of Harrisburg. The donor wished to preserve Bishop McFadden’s steadfast belief that sport possesses educative, formative, and transformative potential.
About the ISSCD
The Neumann University Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development seeks to create inspirational programming and offer motivational content that transforms perspectives, inspires behavior and deepens awareness of self, others and God. For more information about the Neumann University Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development, please visit isscd.org or follow on social media @ISSCD.