Tyler Harris, 11, is the newest member of the IUPUI soccer team, signing his commitment letter as part of “Team Impact,” a national organization that matches kids battling chronic illnesses with college teams.
“It felt good because I knew I was a part of the team,” Tyler said of his signing day.
Tyler has cystic fibrosis and being with his teammates helps take his mind off his condition.
“They pass the ball to me and I can get the ball and be like the team so I fit in,” Tyler, who lives in Fishers, said following practice with the Jaguars.
Being healthy enough to take the field with the Jags made possible with lengthy treatments and constant medication.
"He has to take over 30 pills a day. He has to do at least two breathing treatments with chest percussions,” his mom, Carey, explained. “He works really, really hard to stay healthy."
Soccer helps the athletic, energetic fifth-grader manage his CF.
"The treatments, they shake you up, and when I run it shakes it up and I can get it out, all my mucus and stuff, so soccer helps with that,” he explained.
"With Tyler, he has a tremendous amount of resiliency and fight and bite in him and that's ultimately what we want in our guys,” IUPUI head soccer coach Brian Barnett said.
Across the nation, “Team Impact” has helped more than 1,400 kids fulfill their dreams of signing with a college program. Tyler is the first for IUPUI.
"Anytime you're the first and you're the trailblazer in something, that's always an exciting opportunity,” Barnett said. “But I think for us, it's about giving our student-athletes the opportunity to develop as young men, and then it's also the opportunity to positively affect someone else's life."
In addition to participating in IUPUI practices, team dinners and games, Tyler can look forward to seeing his fellow Jags rooting for him on the sidelines.
“Tyler is a strong runner and so we're going to get out and support him at some cross country meets and different things like that so that he has the opportunity to feel the support just like we feel his,” Barnett added.