Honoring H.S. athletes who inspire greatness on and off the field.

Nate Solder - New York Giants
Offensive Tackle, #76

Heart of a Giant | Jason Pierre-Paul, Heart of a Giant Ambassador

“I learned a lot about life over the last seven years, and I also learned a lot about winning — mostly, that it’s not everything.”

- Nate Solder, Heart of a Giant Ambassador



USA Football’s Heart of a Giant award program, presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants, aims to recognize Tri-State area high school football players who demonstrate unparalleled work ethic and a passion for the game.

Having a Heart of a Giant means possessing characteristics like...

Unshakable work ethic in training and preparation. Exhibits a “first in, last out” mentality.

Leads by example and motivates teammates to be the best they can be.

Inspires and aligns others to work together to achieve a common goal.

Finds a way to persevere when faced with obstacles and adversity.

Demonstrates the desire and drive to succeed both on the field, in the classroom and within their community.


Coaches nominate players based on the following criteria: commitment, dedication, character, teamwork and will.

USA Football reviews all nominations and selects 60 top nominees for the Heart of a Giant award, entering them into an online voting competition. Athletes are announced 10 per week over a 6-week span.

Voting opens and athletes promote themselves for the chance to be named a finalist for the Heart of a Giant award. One athlete with the most votes will be chosen each week as well as an additional 4 based on work ethic and character making 10 total finalists.

Finalists submit a video to be reviewed for the final round of voting, and all finalists receive a $1000 equipment grant for their school.

USA Football, Hospital for Special Surgery and the Giants review all video submissions and select 1 winner for the Heart of a Giant award. They win an additional $9,000 equipment grant and are honored on the field at a New York Giants home game in December.

High school coaches from NY, NJ and CT can nominate athletes for a chance to win a $10,000 equipment grant for their program and to honor a special student-athlete.

Six Finalists Receive:

  • $1,000 equipment grant for their high school football programs
  • USA Football Heart of a Giant presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and New York Giants gift bag

Grand Prize Winner Receives:

  • Heart of a Giant presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and New York Giants trophy
  • Additional $9,000 equipment grant for their high school football program
  • On-field award ceremony during a New York Giants’ home game in December


Throughout the 2014 season, Nate Solder played through and defeated testicular cancer on his way to winning a Super Bowl. During week 5 of the following season, Nate tore his biceps and missed the rest of the year after undergoing surgery. Shortly after the injury, Nate and his wife, Lexi, discovered that their 3-month-old son Hudson had a rare form of cancer. For the better part of three years, Nate spent his Tuesdays in the hospital with his family, never missing one of Hudson’s treatments. Throughout their adversity, Nate and Lexi constantly used what they learned through their own experiences to help people going through battles of their own. In 2017, Nate was recognized as one of the 32 finalists for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. His ability to inspire others and his perseverance through adversity led to a natural partnership to support the USA Football Heart of a Giant Award presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants. As the #1 hospital for orthopedics in the nation, HSS is known for treating professional athletes, but the hospital is also committed to the safety of youth and high school athletes. Together, HSS, Nate Solder, the New York Giants and USA Football are recognizing young athletes who demonstrate unparalleled work ethic, perseverance in the face of adversity, leadership in the local community, and a determination to inspire their teammates.


About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the ninth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2018 - 2019). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at www.hss.edu.


Hillside High School
Hillside, NJ
At the age of four, when Shadon’s parents were no longer able take care of him and his three siblings, he found refuge with his aunt and uncle and considers his cousins as siblings. Because of his lack of resources, Shadon made some decisions that ended with him being benched his freshman year, while devastating at the time, he used this experience as motivation to change his life and now recognizes how the game of football has helped him overcome various hardships.

Watch the Video


West Mendham High School
Mendham, NJ
Quinn was diagnosed with ALCL non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer. Despite numerous trips to the hospital and chemotherapy treatments over the years, in addition to a bone marrow transplant and T-Cell infusions, Quinn continues to fight his disease head on. Despite what Sebastian has been through, he fights through it all to maintain his role as a key member of the Mendham football program.

Watch the Video


Mahopac High School
Mahopac, NY
Despite being born without his left hand, Charlie Burt, a senior at Mahopac High School in Westchester County, continues to defy the odds. A two-way starter and team captain, Burt has always dealt with his handicap head on, whether it be lifting weights with the use of an adaptive hook, or playing baseball and lacrosse in addition to his time on the gridiron, Charlie credits his determination and positive mindset when it comes to his relentless pursuit of his goals.

Watch the Video


Roosevelt High School
Roosevelt, NY
Ukwu, a senior at Roosevelt High School in Long Island, has been a standout athlete for the Roosevelt football program for the past four years, but it is his commitment to his community that makes him who he is. He volunteers to serve others, including offering assistance to elderly neighbors with house repairs following Hurricane Sandy and supporting children at the United Cerebral Palsy Center of Nassau County. Chukwuma puts the needs of others before his own. Following an outstanding senior season, he turned down the honor of playing in the Nassau County high school football all-star game on Thanksgiving to serve dinner to the needy at his local church.

Watch the Video


Pascack Hills High School
Montvale, NJ
On March 19, 2014, Anthony Cortazzo collapsed on the high school track after his heart had stopped. With the help of his athletic trainer, Cortazzo was revived by an automated external defibrillator (AED) and later diagnosed with anomalous aortic origin of the coronary artery. After the incident and hours of extensive open-heart surgery, Anthony was told he would more than likely never be able to return to the football field, a notion that did not sit well with Anthony. After months of rehabilitation and hard work, Cortazzo returned to the gridiron in October of the 2014 season to finish up his dream of playing football for Pascack Hills High School.

Watch the Video


Lincoln High School
Yonkers, NY
Minyard, a senior at Lincoln, has overcome challenges that many student-athletes will never face. Because of an illness at birth, Minyard is legally deaf in his right ear, requires highly specialized contact lenses to correct his vision and suffers from debilitating cognitive processing delays. Despite his disability, Minyard has excelled on and off the football field. He is co-captain of the Lincoln varsity football team, an honor roll student, Marine Corps JROTC staff sergeant, member of the school’s PTSA and volunteer assistant coach for a community youth football team.

Watch the Video


Follow along on social media

What's everyone saying?


Questions or want to learn more about the Heart of a Giant program? Simply contact us today.