Honoring HS athletes who inspire greatness on and off the field.


USA Football's Heart Of A Giant is presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants. This award program seeks to find and highlight Tri-State high school players who demonstrate that extra something special. The ones that have a relentless work ethic and unmatched love for the game.

Values like commitment, character, teamwork, dedication and will are crucial every season. But in times like this, they matter even more. When your players can't be side by side, when they don't take the fields on Friday nights, who helps keep the team together?

That's who we're looking for. High school football may look different this year, but your athletes who inspire greatness both on and off the field still deserve the recognition.

Highlight them to show what they mean to your team. Give them a chance to win a $5,000 equipment grant for your program.

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 5 based on work ethic and character making 11 total finalists.

Finalists submit a video to be reviewed for the final round of voting, and all finalists receive a $1,000 equipment grant for their school. See below for video submissions from past winners.

USA Football, Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants review all video submissions and select 1 winner for the Heart of a Giant award to win an additional $4,000 equipment grant and trophy.

High school coaches from NY, NJ and CT can nominate athletes for a chance to win a $5,000 equipment grant for their program and to honor a special student-athlete.

Eleven Finalists Receive:

  • $1,000 equipment grant for their high school football programs

Grand Prize Winner Receives:

  • USA Football Heart of a Giant trophy presented on the field during a New York Giants' home game in December
  • Additional $4,000 equipment grant for their high school football program

USA Football is currently accepting nominations for the 2021 Heart of a Giant Award.

Head coaches can nominate one player from the team that best embodies what it means to have the Heart of a Giant.


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 12th consecutive year), No. 4 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2021-2022), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2021-2022). HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics by Newsweek (2020-2021).

Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest complication and readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969.

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, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education.

The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration.

The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices.

The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 130 countries.

The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.


Passaic County Technical Institute
Wayne, NJ
Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) student-athlete, Yosue Gomez, turned to sports when faced with hardships at home. At the end of Yosue’s sophomore year, his mother was deemed unfit to take care of him and his family. Yosue and his family moved into a foster home, where he admittedly failed to maintain proper nutrition and would often struggle to keep his clothes clean. During this time, Yosue created a bond with PCTI’s head football coach, Matthew Demarest. Coach Demarest took Yosue under his wing and encouraged him to get better each day. Yosue grew to love the sport and embraced the time he had on the field and in the locker room with his new football family. Yosue will end his high school sports career as a three-year starter on the gridiron at PCTI, and a member of the track & field and wrestling teams. Off the field, Yosue has held a 3.7 cumulative GPA in the classroom and inspired all of his classmates and teammates around him. The 27-year coaching veteran, Coach Demarest, stated “Yosue Gomez is truly one of the most amazing human beings I have ever met.”

Watch the Video


John F. Kennedy High School and Weequahic High School Football
Newark, NJ
Duane Coleman II was selected to be the Heart of a Giant winner in 2019 because of his courage and success competing for the Weequahic football team, despite having to navigate through obstacles along the way. He was diagnosed with autism and battled depression due to being overweight. Coleman has turned to football to overcome these challenges. He currently attends John F. Kennedy School – a district wide special education school – but joined the Weequahic High School football team to suit up and hit the gridiron. Coleman has since lost more than 100 pounds, and he’s inspired faculty and other students to stay active as well.

Watch the Video


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.