Life is unpredictable, but two local college athletes prove that tenacity and resilience is as important as physical prowess, a trait that earned them designation as February’s Hartford HealthCare Connecticut Courage Award winners.
The awards are given by the system, in association with the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), to student athletes who demonstrate courage in the face of adversity. The honorees – chosen by a panel of writers, editors and sports information directors from CoSIDA, AP and College Hoops Illustrated — receive a plaque and a donation to their college’s general scholarship fund in their names.
Honored at ceremonies Feb. 12 were Eli Thomas, captain of the 2019 University of Connecticut football team, and Sam Kramer, a basketball player at Fairfield University. (Above, Thomas receives the award from former UConn basketball player Rebecca Lobo. Kramer, at top, with Lobo after receiving her award.)
Thomas transferred to UConn from Lackawanna Junior College in 2017 after overcoming three knee surgeries. He started as linebacker in 2018 but suffered a stroke that Oct. 10. Drawing on steely determination and inner strength, he has made an incredible recovery and while his career playing the sport is over, Thomas was chosen to be the team’s captain in 2019 and still works out and travels with them.
Kramer’s battles were less physical but equally daunting. The day after Christmas 2018, her father died after a sudden illness, a blow that forced her to lean heavily on her teammates. She missed just two games, returning as the team’s starting point guard and leading the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in three-point percentage. This season, Kramer is a team captain and proving to be a vital leader.
“Hartford HealthCare is excited to recognize these two remarkable young student-athletes, who, despite setbacks, have overcome challenges to continue to perform their best as both scholars and athletes,” said Jeffrey A. Flaks, president and chief executive officer of Hartford HealthCare. “Our organization’s purpose is to help people live their healthiest lives, and both Eli and Sam’s courageous stories of recovery and perseverance are an inspiration to all.”
In May, one male and one female student-athlete will be chosen from the finalists as Hartford HealthCare Connecticut Courage Award Winners. Hartford HealthCare will donate $15,000 to the general scholarship funds for the student-athletes selected as finalists, with $2,500 being awarded in the names of each of the two winners and $10,000 on behalf of the other 10 finalists.
Sports information directors at all colleges and universities in Connecticut can nominate deserving male and female intercollegiate student-athletes through March 30 at HartfordHealthCareCourageAwards.com.