Welcoming a Special Teammate

Tufts Football drafts courageous 15-year-old Zack Cummings as newest member of the team

In a star-studded event held Sept. 5 at Gillette Stadium, the biggest star of them all was Zack Cummings, a courageous 15-year old boy from Saugus, Massachusetts, who was drafted by the Tufts University football team.

Cummings and the Jumbos were connected through Team IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate and Play Against Challenges Together), which seeks to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses by pairing them with collegiate athletic teams. Team IMPACT was founded and funded by a group of friends and colleagues, many of whom went to college together at Tufts.

A sophomore at St. Mary’s High School in nearby Lynn, Massachusetts, Cummings was diagnosed in January 2017 with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma, a non-Hodgkin lymphoma that mainly affects children and teenagers. Currently in remission, Cummings is bravely enduring the effects of chemotherapy and other treatments.

Through Team IMPACT’s program at Tufts, Cummings, who has a Jumbo passion for football, became an official member of the team. He will attend Jumbo practices, games, team dinners, events, and more. He sat front and center with the rest of the Jumbos in the Tufts team photo taken last week.

The special evening event took place during the third annual Tufts Football Kickoff Event, hosted on field level at Gillette Stadium. Cummings’ Draft Day was attended by more than 300 Jumbo alumni and friends. Cummings signed an official letter of intent before his new teammates and coaches as well as more than 40 family members and friends. The Jumbo football team, coming off its best finish in 18 years, welcomed Cummings, presenting him with official Tufts football gear.

Among those who spoke at the event were Tufts head coach Jay Civetti; Team IMPACT co-founder Dan Kraft, A87, a former university trustee; and Team IMPACT executive director Seth Rosenzweig.

As a highlight of the evening, Cummings was greeted by Robert Kraft, CEO of the New England Patriots. Kraft brought the Vincent Lombardi Trophy with him, earned by the Patriots for winning the 2017 Super Bowl. Cummings got to hold the Super Bowl trophy as well as try on Kraft’s Super Bowl ring. He also chatted with former Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer.

Several Boston television outlets covered the special event. To top it all off, Zack and his family were invited back to Gillette Stadium for the Patriots’ season-opening game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept 7.

“I’m speechless, to be honest with you,” Zach told a television reporter. “This is maybe the greatest day of my life.”

Friends as students at Tufts in the late 1980s, Jay Calnan, Kris Herman, Dan Kraft, Robert Tishman and Dan Walsh helped found Team IMPACT. Eleven teammates have been drafted by Tufts University teams since its beginning in 2011.

Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.

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