Moorhead, Minn. --- When Concordia football walks onto the turf at Jake Christiansen Stadium there appears to be a gap between head coach Terry Horan and the captains, but it is filled.
Standing a tall and mighty 4'5" is an honorary Cobber named Dalton Lundon who dreams of playing quarterback. If you thought Brett Favre was tough when he played football, that doesn't even compare to Dalton's everyday toughness.
On game days it appears Lundon has the easy job. He observes and cheers on his favorite guys in maroon and gold and gets to celebrate with the team following big wins.
The time spent at Concordia with the football team is his chance to be a kid. On game days Lundon is a football fan but by night he battles for his life.
At the early age of five, Lundon was diagnosed with fanconi anemia - a rare orphan genetic disease that attacks all systems of the body. The disease is so rare that there are only three facilities in the world that treat the disease. There is a treatment center in Cincinnati, New York and the one Dalton receives treatment from – the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.
He has experienced many of the effects of this dreaded disease, including severe bone marrow failure. The disease also causes physical abnormalities, organ defects and an increased risk of certain cancers.
People with fanconi anemia have a shortened life expectancy. The disease takes many of the stricken before they are 30-years-old while others pass away in their teenage years.
In order to help Dalton ease his condition during childhood his family got in touch with Team Impact.
Team Impact is similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation but the focus is on improving the lives of young children who face life-threating illnesses through the power of team.
Dalton's mother, Heidi, had heard about the program and through talking with other families affected by fanconia anemia she garnered more information.
One of the families she talked with gave Team Impact the Lundon families' information and from there the organization got involved immediately.
Dalton started his Team Impact experience last winter as an honorary member of the MSU Moorhead Dragon's men's basketball team.
This season Horan was approached about having Dalton and his family as honorary members of the team. The Cobbers were all in.
From day one the team and coaching staff adopted Dalton as a younger brother. Lundon commented on the team atmosphere saying, "They include me and make me feel like a little brother. I don't have to think about being sick. I get a locker and the guys all say hi to me. I will be sad when the season is done."
Most nights his mother will find herself searching around for her phone. She generally knows where to find it. Dalton can be found stowed away in his room texting both Erik Bye and Brandon Zylstra into the evening. The conversations range from football to his constant appointments and everything in between.
"I think our team has gotten more out of it than Dalton, Bye commented. "With his diagnosis it would be easy for him to get down and not be excited about things, but seeing how happy he is after games is one of my favorite memories from this year so far. It definitely makes winning more special."
Horan and Dalton's relationship is one to marvel at as well. Dalton is a quiet 12-year-old boy with his back against the wall while Horan is a father figure to over 100 college kids.
Dalton Lundon Signing Day Feature Video
Dalton just fits the mold of another player for the coach. They get each other.
Horan remarked, "To be around a young man like Dalton who goes through the ringer every day and provide him additional love and support, it's a huge community service project for our team and it has taken off. The support our team has given him and vice versa means a lot to our team and our staff."
For the family this opportunity means everything. Lundon's mother said, "He gets so into the games and it's hard to watch for me. I will never get the chance to [be] like other parents to watch my son play football so this is pretty precious to me."
Dalton's fight puts things in perspective. While on Saturdays the biggest battle for the Cobber football team is beating the guy across from them, there are people who are fighting for their lives.
Whether or not Dalton feels well enough physically he'll be cheering on his guys on Saturday. Being part of this team gives him the spirit and the drive to keep on going, no matter what.
Babe Ruth once said, "It's hard to beat a person who never gives up." Dalton Lundon has reason to not give up.
Written by Sports Information Intern Austin Hawkins