New Orleans Saints superfan Jarrius "JJ" Robertson has been in and out of hospitals his whole life, battling a chronic liver disease called biliary atresia. The 15-year-old's wit, energy and effervescent attitude made a lasting impression on Saints players who met him during a 2015 visit to the Ochsner Hospital for Children. Since then, he has been crowned official "hype man" and social media master for the team, winning over fans with his dance moves and his impressive football acumen.
ESPN on Wednesday announced Robertson will be honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb on July 12 at "The 25th ESPYS presented by Capital One" on ABC.
Robertson, who has undergone two liver transplants and 13 surgeries in 15 years, is a true example of perseverance. His health battles haven't stopped him from being the Saints' biggest cheerleader - he's become a fixture at home and away games and has also joined the team for practices.
"When I first heard the news I thought I was dreaming!" Robertson said. " 'The ESPYS'? For real? The past two years have been a blessing in so many ways for me and my family. I have been able to do things I never thought I would be able to do. But to be included with Craig Sager, Stuart Scott, Leah and Devon Still, Eric LeGrand and the man himself, Jimmy V, is truly amazing and I am really grateful and humbled."
The Jimmy V Perseverance Award was named after, and inspired by, the late Jim Valvano who, while battling cancer, gave an emotional acceptance speech at the 1993 ESPYS that included his famous words "Don't Give Up . . . Don't Ever Give Up!"®. Valvano passed away less than two months later, but his words were never forgotten.
"Jarrius is such an inspirational young man," said New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. "His strength, determination and resolve along with his infectious energy and attitude should be an example that, no matter the circumstances or adversity, with a positive outlook and embracing the motto of 'Don't Give Up... Don't Ever Give Up,' there isn't a challenge that cannot be conquered."
Added Saints head coach Sean Peyton: "As a coach, I am sure that coach Valvano would love the energy and enthusiasm Jarrius brings to each day. He would be proud to know that his mission of never giving up has been embraced by a young man who represents all the qualities that he looked for in a person. Jarrius is a perfect torch bearer for the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, as his story and mission of 'It takes lives to save lives' resonates and touches everyone on so many different levels."
The Jimmy V Perseverance Award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. In 2007, Women's College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, Devon and Leah Still, and Craig Sager.
"We are so lucky to be honoring such a determined and passionate individual," said "ESPYS" Executive Producer Maura Mandt. "It may be his unparalleled enthusiasm and infectious positivity that make Jarrius "JJ" Robertson the No. 1 New Orleans Saints superfan, but it is his unbreakable spirit that will be celebrated this year."
The 25th annual ESPYS celebration of the best moments from the year in sports will be televised live from the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 12 (8-11 p.m. EDT), on ABC.
About the V Foundation for Cancer Research
The V Foundation for Cancer Research is dedicated to declaring victory over cancer. It was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Valvano, legendary North Carolina State Basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, the foundation has funded more than $170 million in cancer research grants nationwide. It awards 100 percent of all direct cash donations to cancer research and related programs. Due to generous donors, the foundation has an endowment that covers administrative expenses.
"Not a Moment to Lose," its boldest fundraising campaign to date, aims to raise $200 million for cancer research by 2020 to help transform the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. The foundation awards peer-reviewed grants through a competitive awards process vetted by a world-renowned scientific advisory committee. For more information on the V Foundation, visit www.jimmyv.org
About 'The ESPYS'
This year marks the 25th airing of "The ESPYS," which gathers top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The 2017 "ESPYS" will recognize both sport-specific achievements, such as "Best MLB Player" and "Best WNBA Player," and best-in-sport winners, such as "Best Team" or "Best Female Athlete," that pit nominees from different sports against each other.
"The ESPYS" support ESPN's ongoing commitment to The V Foundation for Cancer Research.