For the Love of Landrey: How a little girl's fight inspires college football

FOX 17 News

Braving the elements is part of every day life for Joshua Eargle.

"Being a football coach you try to use the game of football to teach young men how to overcome adversity and how that translated to their life because everyone is going through something," described the Austin Peay offensive coordinator.

However, for Coach and his wife Kristen, there was no game plan for the challenge they faced with their middle child Landrey.

"She's changed us. We're different people then we were 6 years ago," explained Kristen Eargle.

"Absolutely," added Joshua.

Landrey was born with a rare genetic mutation, so rare that her's is the first known case in the United States.

"If you asked us if we could have handle this, we couldn't have handled it," said Kristen.

Landrey spent the first 73 days of her life in the hospital and has been in and out ever since. She suffers from a congenital heart defect, epilepsy, immunodeficiency, and she's intellectually disabled.

"You're always vigilant with Landrey. Every morning you're going to run to her bedside and be grateful she's here every day," explained Kristen.

The Eargles were especially grateful for the day their in-laws started a GoFundMe page to support Landrey's growing medical costs.

"They had seen us struggle for six years trying to pay off her initial 73 days in the hospital and it was burying us. There was a lot of anxiety on our family and they reached out to try and stop that as much as they could," said Joshua.

The goal was set at $40,000. However, Landrey's story went viral and it's now raised more than $150,000.

"It was extremely humbling experience because you don't want to ask for help. The help began to grow so much it became overwhelming in the opposite direction. It went from one spectrum to another" described Joshua

The Eargle's story was even heard by Dawg Nation, the University of Georgia's fan base. Austin Peay went to Athens for their season opener. UGA gave the Eargle's a behind the scenes game-day experience that culminated with a donation presented to the family on the field.

"Right now in our lives, we can't look forward to a month. We don't know what will come with Landrey. There's no blue print or road map and through the blessings of other people financially, many who didn't know us, Landrey is going to get the medical attention she needed," explained Joshua.

As Landrey continues to fight, the Eargle's continue to see her impact on others, especially Coach Eargle's position group, the offensive line.

"I mean I'm just going to say it, these guys have the hardest job on the football field. They're tough, they're physical. But when Landrey comes into the room, they melt," said Kristen.

"They melt, they do. These football players have seen what it means to be in constant pain, to be in constant struggle, but Landrey comes in smiling," added Joshua.

Smiling past adversity, who better to teach that lesson that Coach Eargle.

The Eargle's want to continue to use their platform to raise awareness for conditions similar to Landrey's and raise more funds towards finding a cure for rare genetic disorders.

Just this week, Joshua Eargle was nominated as a finalist for the 11th annual Rare Disease Champion Award, part of the National College Football Awards Association. The honor is given annually to a leader in college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community.

Eargle is one of five finalists and it's up to the public to vote. Fans can vote here once a day between now until December 4th.

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