Tufts Football Program, Team Impact and New England Patriot Rob Ninkovich Partner to “Draft” Eight-Year Old Riley Roman

MEDFORD - Adding to an already excellent class of recruits for next season, the Tufts University football team welcomed Riley Roman to the Jumbo program on Wednesday, May 2.

The Tufts football team hosted a "draft day" at Ellis Oval/Zimman Field for Riley, an eight-year-old from South Hadley, Massachusetts who was recently diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal brain tumor. New England Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich was at Riley's draft day. The two met during a visit to the hospital and they have remained in close contact ever since.

Riley and the Jumbos were brought together by Team IMPACT, a non-profit chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses by creating unparalleled team based support systems. Four Team IMPACT board members are Tufts alumni, including Dan Kraft, Jay Calnan, Dan Walsh (Executive Director)  and Kris Herman.

Riley has been treated at Children's Hospital Boston, undergoing major brain surgery where doctors removed part of the tumor. Since then, Riley has undergone a second brain surgery and is on his second round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Due to the intensive nature of the treatment, Riley must undergo this treatment in-patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and is currently living at the Ronald McDonald house with his mother.

Before being diagnosed, Riley was an avid athlete, playing on a number of different sports teams.  His involvement with the Tufts football team will provide the opportunity to get back out on to the field with his new teammates, a dream come true as he continues his fight against cancer.

During the event, Riley watched and experienced elements of 'trying out' for the team under the watchful eyes of Tufts coaches and players. The team then "drafted" Riley, followed by the signing of a "letter of intent" during a press conference. He was presented with a team jersey, #64, and a helmet signed by the team, among other gifts. The Tufts cheerleaders and pep band, along with other members of the University community, attended the event.

"We're excited to welcome Riley and his family to our football family," said Tufts head coach Jay Civetti. "His spirit and the way he's fought against adversity are a great example for our team, and we hope he'll have a lot of fun as a Jumbo. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to partner with Team Impact and become involved in Riley's life."

Several local college teams have successfully joined with Team IMPACT, including the Tufts women's soccer team. They "drafted" Joli Talusan Vega, a 9-year old from the South Shore who had eye cancer, as a member of the team in July 2011. She was given a uniform, sits on the team bench during games and participates in many other team activities.

Visit Team Impact's website here.

Riley's draft day was covered by a number of local media outlets, including two Boston television stations:


CBS Boston:



7 News Boston:









Medford Patch:



Riley Roman Draft Day Photo Gallery
(Photos by Kelvin Ma, Tufts University)