BY DARREN REESE
Curtis Moneyhun has never dropped back to throw a pass. He has never taken a handoff and ran down the field. He has never powered his way through the line to make a sack.
He is physically unable to.
The Tusculum College freshman suffers from muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheel chair.
But Moneyhun was invited by head coach Frankie DeBusk to be a part of the 2012 Pioneers football squad, and the coaches and players have embraced their new teammate with open arms.
Tusculum will honor Moneyhun, as well as another local child suffering with MD, Austin Bugger, by taking part in the nation-wide "Coach To Cure Muscular Dystrophy" program this Saturday when the Pioneers host South Atlantic Conference foe Brevard. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
"Curtis means so much to our football team, and we are honored to be able to show how much we appreciate him by supporting this cause," Tusculum head coach Frankie DeBusk said.
"I know Curtis loves being a part of this team, but really we are the ones that are so very fortunate to have him be a part of our lives."
Moneyhun has always had a natural love for the game of football. He attributes that to the life lessons one can learn from the sport - particularly one that he relates to his own struggles.
"Football mirrors life," Moneyhun said. "You are gonna get hit and knocked down, but you've gotta get right back up."
Moneyhun first got the idea that he wanted to be part of a team while he was a student at Sullivan North High School. He approached Raiders' head coach Robbie Norris with his dream and in turn was welcomed with open arms.
Moneyhun found the same accepting spirit when the time came to choose a college destination. His dad, Jim, contacted DeBusk and told him of his son's desire to join the football team. There was no hesitation on the coach's part.
"Curtis actually looked at several different colleges when he was a senior, and one of the things he looked for was somewhere he could be a part of the football team," Jim Moneyhun said. "Of course, that ruled out a handful of schools."
"But we came here to visit Tusculum and when we left, he said, 'This is it. This is home'. I actually made him go look at a couple of more schools just to be sure, but his mind was made up."
Moneyhun started coming to practices and meetings at the beginning of fall camp, and his dedication to the program has been unwavering ever since.
"He has come to every practice, every meeting, he has traveled to every game," DeBusk emphasized. "Curtis has a lot of involvement with our team, and I think our players really enjoy that."
Moneyhun has a special role with the Tusculum defense. Every day before practice, the unit gathers around him and he breaks them down to get workouts started. Then at the end of practice, he hands out a special "lunch pail award" to the player who showed the most effort that day.
First-year defensive coordinator Mike Iezzi came up with the idea for the award. The coaching staff actually went out and found an old-fashioned metal lunch box, painted it black, and Moneyhun now carries it to practice each day to pass along to the defensive player who, as he puts it, 'Clocks in and goes to work'.
"Curtis is really an inspiration to our football team," Iezzi said. "Our players can look at him when times are tough and think to themselves, 'If Curtis can come out here every day and face the obstacles that he has, then I need to step it up as well'."
"We came up with this Lunch Pail Award as a way for him to be more involved and have a focused responsibility toward the defensive unit during practice."
The first two recipients of Moneyhun's Lunch Pail Award were redshirt freshman defensive lineman Iziah Rutledge and sophomore linebacker Darien Crank.
"Curtis, really his whole life has been about giving effort," Crank said. "When people tell him he can't do something, like making it to college, he just tries that much harder."
"That's what this award is about. He comes out here every day to support us, so that gives us the motivation to go out there and play hard for him."
Moneyhun can be seen on the sideline during every practice and every game. He and his father have traveled to all three of Tusculum's away games this season, which included trips to Urbana, Ohio and Carrolton, Georgia, and Salisbury, North Carolina - a total of about 1,800 miles on the road.
The father and son are used to long car rides together, though, thanks to a love they share for another hobby - music.
This past year they traveled from South Carolina to Ohio and many places in between, singing southern gospel and contemporary Christian music in churches and other venues.
Moneyhun won't say which one he loves more, singing or football. His mother, Carolyn, is supportive of all his endeavors, though she is unable to travel with them as much, due to her job.
Moneyhun also excels in the classroom. He was an honors student in high school and received an academic scholarship to attend Tusculum. He has plans to earn a degree in sports management with a minor in religion.
"I love being a part of the Tusculum family," Moneyhun said.
Tusculum will be taking up donations at the gate Saturday, which will go to the Parent Project Dystrophy/Coach to Cure MD cause. Donations can also be made via text (text "cure" to 90999 to make a $5 dollar donation) or by visiting http://www.CoachtoCureMd.org.