Here's the Feel-Good Story of the College Football Pre-Season

Eastern Michigan University / ESPN

If you know anything about me, you’re aware that college football is one of my favorite things in the world. It’s also abundantly clear that I love to write about it, too.

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Throughout the summer, there have been plenty of weird things to report on within the college football world; from once-reputable media outlets relying on unethical reporting to make a team look bad to fans selling tickets at ridiculously low prices to the rollercoaster of conference realignment, it’s been an eventful summer on the college football front.

All of the craziness this summer makes me even more proud to bring you the coolest and most heartwarming story to come out of college football in the weeks leading up to the new season. It’s a tale of two hard-working players and a tremendous gesture of generosity that took place after a team meeting last week.

Zach Conti is a senior walk-on at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). Even though he’s not on scholarship, he has given his all to the team, playing on the offensive line.

“Conti has been a dedicated and hardworking member of the Eastern Eagles football team for four years playing in a combined 23 games in 2021 and 2022,” reports the Eastern Michigan University Athletics website. “Throughout his college journey, he persevered with remarkable determination, paying his own way through school without the support of a scholarship. It was a testament to his love for the game and his unyielding commitment to his education.”

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Conti is also working his way through college. At one point last year, he was selling plasma to pay the bills. EMU head coach Chris Creighton was aware of Conti’s plight, and he tried multiple times to secure another scholarship.

“We’re at 85 scholarships; we have 85 given out, and no matter how many times or how many years I go to the NCAA and say, ‘Yeah, but man, I’m just telling you we need 86. We need 86,'” Creighton explained to his team on Aug. 3.

Related: Just When You Thought College Football Couldn’t Get Any Wilder, Here Comes More Conference Realignment!

Enter Conti’s teammate, Brian Dooley. Dooley, also a senior offensive lineman, wanted to support his teammate, and he approached Creighton with a radical proposal.

“He said, ‘Coach, Zach Conti: that guy has earned it, and I’ve talked this over with my family and the whole bit, and if there’s a way to make this happen, I am willing to give up my scholarship and to give it to Zach Conti,'” Creighton explained to the team. “I’ve never heard, I’ve never seen anything like that ever before.”

At the same team meeting, Dooley presented his scholarship to Conti. The two teammates embraced, and the rest of the team rallied around Dooley and Conti. Dooley later explained to EMU why he made such a selfless gesture.

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“I did it because I’ve seen Conti grow over the years,” Dooley said. “Seeing him walk away from something that he loves did not sit well with me. He works hard and gets extra work with me all the time. In my eyes he earned it 100%; giving up my scholarship so he can stay and play means everything. I’m proud of what he has become and cannot wait to see what he does on the field.”

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that college athletes are heartless and are only out for their own advancement. Zach Conti represents the passion for the sport and the tremendous work ethic that inspiring stories are made of, while Brian Dooley represents a selfless spirit that we can all aspire to.

Check out the video below, and see if your eyes start mysteriously watering like mine did:

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