Cole Spiegel has never played an officiated down of football, but he’s scored numerous touchdowns in his young career.
Most of the 11-year-old’s time on the football field is spent on the sidelines as an assistant for the Glen Ellyn Golden Eagles. But following every home game, Spiegel gets his moment to truly shine, stepping in at running back to run an untimed touchdown play.
“Those moments are so special,” Cole’s father, Dan Spiegel said.
Cole was born fighting.
Before he even turned one, he faced his first major medical challenge when he was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, a condition that causes problems with healthy brain and skull growth.
He underwent cranial facial plastic surgery at 11-months old, after which Dan and his wife Beth believed he would enjoy a happy, healthy childhood.
But, Cole was given another life-altering diagnosis when he was eight and his parents noticed skin tags covering his neck.
A biopsy of the skin tags came back positive for Gorlin syndrome, also known as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome that increases an individual’s risk of developing cancerous and noncancerous tumors.
“Through a DNA test, we confirmed that he had a tumor suppressant gene that was deformed,” Dan said. “What it does is it causes him to develop tumors that we normally would be able to suppress in our own bodies.”
Cole had surgery that removed over 130 basal cells that covered his scalp, face, chest and back; each one had to be scraped from his body.
Cole continues to have surgery numerous times a year to remove these basal cells. Through it all, his joyous spirit has remained largely due to his love of sports.
Cole’s journey on the gridiron started with the Golden Eagles two years ago when coach Andrew Morris invited him out to practice after a player drew inspiration from Cole’s story.
“This boy at the time was a seventh-grader and Cole was a fourth-grader,” Dan said. “Cole inspired him as an athlete. He can’t play because of his limitations and the coach said ‘Let’s meet this kid.’”
It wasn’t long before Cole was drawing up plays and running his own for the Golden Eagles.
As some of his Golden Eagle teammates progressed from youth football to high school, so did Cole. He added honorary coach of the Glenbard West Hilltoppers to his resume this year.
In October, Cole and his dad met Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano through Tackle Cancer, a partnership program involving the Bears, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and CDW.
Pagano quickly became another coach inspired not only by Cole’s perseverance but his knowledge of the game of football as well.
Cole’s diagnosis may have kept him from playing the game he loves, but in facing that adversity he has developed a dream beyond high school athletics.
“The main goal is I want to be a sports announcer when I grow up,” Cole said. “Probably like football or baseball.”