Empire Challenge: Going beyond the game
For many high school football players, their last high school game took place months ago. However, a select few players from Long Island and New York City were invited to the United HealthCare Empire Challenge and were able to have one last game as a high school student.
The Empire Challenge is a high school football all star game which features Long Island versus New York City, and took place on June 19th at Hofstra University.
To the average fan, the results of the game were clear. Long Island won easily, 31-7, over New York City. The would say that the game was a great experience for the players and something they will remember and can help them with there future sports career.
While that is not the wrong answer, however, it is not the only answer. The Empire Challenge takes place for two reasons, to feature some of the top players in New York and to help raise money and awareness for former NFL player Boomer Esiason’s foundation. Esiason started the foundation to fight cystic fibrosis, a disease that has been negatively affecting his life. Esiason’s son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with CF when he was just two years old.
CF is a disease that causes thick mucus builds up in the lungs and in other parts of the body. It is a very serious disease and is life threatening. So far, with Esiason’s leadership, the foundation has raised an astonishing amount of more than $100 million.
“For me it has to be the success of this foundation because it is changing lives, playing football is great, its great to make the money, its great to become a known entity in the NFL, but there is nothing like touching peoples lives through something like this,” Esiason said when asked what his greatest accomplishment has been—his work with the foundation, or his 14-year NFL Career. “The great thing about this game is that it brings the game I love so much, football together with fundraising for cystic fibrosis, and this is why this is one of my more proud moments.”
Many of Esiason’s friends, colleagues and other supporters were at the event and gave insight about the former NFL quarterback.
“I think it is unbelievable because he could have just really been on a crusade for his son Gunnar who suffers from cystic fibrosis,” said Carl Reuter, one of MSG Varsity’s broadcasters. “But he took this to almost a national level. … Whether it is his own son, or someone else’s son or daughter, Boomer has gotten involved and it just shows you the type of guy that he is. He could be selfish and just worry about his own kid, but instead he is worrying about all kids, all people who suffer from this dreaded disease.”