D25 Stories & Podcasts
POTWP 2018 - What a day!
Chris Nowinski - Harvard Football, WWE Wrestler, Football Activist
Here is the introduction to Chris Nowinski inductee ceremony:
Chris Nowinski grew up in Arlington Heights and attended Ivy Hill Elementary School, Thomas Middle School, where he graduated in 1992, and Hersey High School, where he graduated in 1996. While at Hersey, Chris was a standout on the football field, as well as the basketball court. On the football field, Chris earned All-Conference and All-Area honors in 1995, and also earned All-Conference honors on the basketball court during the 1995-96 season.
Upon graduating from Hersey, Chris went on to play football at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts. While at Harvard, Chris was described by head football coach, Tim Murphy, as, “a great teammate and player” and also as someone with a “great moral compass.” Chris earned All Ivy League honors as a defensive tackle in 1999. In 2000, Chris earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.
In 2001, he was part of the WWE series “Tough Enough”, which was a professional wrestling reality series where contestants compete for a WWE contract. Chris did very well, and finished 2nd, and was signed by the WWE and made his debut on June 10, 2002. Under the name “Chris Harvard”, Chris had a busy and successful stint in professional wrestling, until June 23, 2003 when he suffered a serious concussion during a match, and was ultimately forced to retire from professional wrestling.
In 2006, Chris wrote and published a book titled Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis, where he spoke in detail about his career ending injury, and brought to light the dangers of concussions in sports, especially football. His book also contained the stories of several NFL players, as well as wrestlers.
In late 2006, Chris took it upon himself to look into the suicide of former NFL star Andre Watters, and was instrumental in finding the fourth case of CTE in an NFL player and professional wrestler.
In June of 2007, Chris and Dr. Robert Cantu co-founded the Concussion Legacy Institute, later called the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF). Their mission is to research head related sports injuries to increase awareness of safety in sports. On September 5, 2007, ESPN aired a documentary of his work on their show “Outside the Lines.”
In 2008, CLF partnered with Boston University School of Medicine and formed the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE Center). Then in 2009, the foundation created the Coaches Concussion Clinic program which educates coaches, parents, and athletes about sports injuries.
Raising awareness about CTE due to concussions in contact sports has been Chris’s major work since he retired from wrestling. While his book first began the discussion on the CTE crisis, the CLF has conducted breakthrough research in this field.
Along the way, Chris also earned his PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience from the Boston University School of Medicine, and he currently resides in Boston, MA.
Abby Fesl - University of North Florida, The Ohio State University
Here Abby's introduction from the Pride of the Wolfpack assembly:
Abby Fesl grew up in Arlington Heights and attended St. James Elementary School, Thomas Middle School, where she graduated in 2009, and Hersey High School, where she graduated in 2013. While at Hersey, Abby had a stand out career on the volleyball court. She was a 4 year varsity letter winner, and was named All-Conference and All-Area three times. In addition, she was named All-State Special Mention as a sophomore, and All-State Honorable Mention as a junior. As a senior, she earned 1st Team All-State Honors, and was the 2012 Mid Suburban League Player of the Year. In 2012, she also won a National Championship with her AAU team, Sky High Volleyball, and Abby was the tournament MVP.
Upon graduating from Hersey, Abby earned a scholarship to play volleyball at North Florida University in Jacksonville, FL. While at North Florida, Abby was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team in 2013, and was the Preseason Setter of the Year in 2014. Abby impressively graduated from North Florida with a degree in Mass Communications in only 3 years, and finished her volleyball career there with 2404 assists, 565 digs, and 135 kills in 90 matches.
Abby then moved on to graduate school at Ohio State University in 2016, and was an integral part of the team’s success as they made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. In one year at Ohio State, Abby racked up 226 assists, and 68 digs in 33 matches, and was an OSU Scholar Athlete. She also earned her Masters Degree in Sports Management.
Abby currently lives in Chicago and works for Starcom, which is one of the largest media networks in the world.
Mark Woodsum - Northwestern University
Here is the introduction to Mark Woodsum's inductee ceremony:
Mark Woodsum grew up in Arlington Heights and attended Ivy Hill Elementary School, Thomas Middle School, where he graduated in 2001, and Buffalo Grove High School, where he graduated in 2005. While at Buffalo Grove, Mark was both a standout athlete and student. As a student, Mark was on the Senior Honor Roll all 8 semesters of high school, and was also a National Honor Society Member.
As an athlete, Mark was a 3 time letter winner in both football, where he played fullback and linebacker, and track where he competed in the shot put and discus. In 2002 and 2003, he played on 2 Buffalo Grove football teams that made it to the state quarterfinals, as he played alongside fellow Pride of the Wolf Pack Honoree, Tom Zbikowski. In 2004 on the football field, Mark had a memorable year. At the conclusion of the season, he was named All-Conference, All-Area, and Honorable Mention All-State as a fullback. In addition, he was named the MVP of the football team, and impressively made the Academic All-State team. Mark finished his BG football career as the 7th all-time leading rusher in school history with 1225 yards, and 11th in all-time scoring.
Upon graduating from Buffalo Grove, Mark attended Northwestern University, and walked on to the football team without a scholarship. As a freshman in 2005, Mark did not see action on the field, but made an impact on the practice field, and earned a scholarship in 2006. In 2007, Mark scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 2 yard reception vs. Iowa, and throughout his career was praised by the Northwestern coaching staff for his work on special teams and on offense in short yardage situations. He was also described by coaches as a hard working player who brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the football program. In 2009 as a graduate student, this hard word and enthusiasm earned him the Thomas Airth Spirit Award, given to a player whose spirit and enthusiasm are an inspiration to teammates, coaches and fans. Mark also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors every year he was at Northwestern, and was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2009 and 2010.
Mark earned his undergraduate degree in environmental sciences, with a minor in business institutions from Northwestern in 2009. He then enrolled in graduate school for civil and environmental engineering master’s of project management, and graduated with Honors in 2010. Mark currently lives in Chicago, is married and has 2 kids, Abigail who is 3 years old, and Hannah who is 1. Mark currently works for L&W Supply as a Merchandising Manager.