Charlie Burt of Mahopac, New York, isn’t your ordinary high school football captain. Despite being born without a left hand, the 17-year-old has played football, baseball, basketball and lacrosse and is extremely active in his community.
It’s that drive, dedication and compassion to both football and his hometown that made Burt winner of USA Football’s 2016Heart of a Giant Award.
Presented by Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and the New York Giants, Heart of a Giant recognizes high school players from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who were nominated by their coaches for showing passion for the game and matchless work ethic on and off the field.
“There’s so many incredible stories and young men who are inspiring and applying what they learn on the gridiron in their own lives,” Dr. Samuel Taylor of HSS said.
“I think it’s important we recognize the positives even more than even the potential negatives,” he added, referring to reports of domestic abuse, violence and other crimes within the NFL.
Despite heavy competition, Burt stood out. “I think it only takes watching (Burt’s submission) video to get sense for what an incredible young man he is,” Taylor said. “Through overcoming an obstacle at birth he had no control over, it inspires other people to defy limitations that others may put on them.”
Burt said he felt he “had a good shot” when he entered the competition, but winning still came as a surprise.
On Monday, he had been asked by his coach, Mark Langella, to speak to younger students about football, but realized it was a rouse when a surprise guest showed up: Giants running back Rashad Jennings. Jennings and Taylor were on hand to present Burt with this year’s Heart of a Giant award.
“My heart just dropped,” Burt said. “Everything I’ve worked for just fell into place.”
The teen, who plans to study biochemistry in college next year, will also be honored on the field during the Giants game against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. “I can’t wait,” Burt said. “I’ve been a football fan my whole life. It’s a big honor.”