TAMPA, Fla. – Brad Cecil credits his parents and high school football coach for instilling in him the importance of caring for and supporting others who are not as fortunate.
“Leave a place better than when you found it,” said the sixth-year center at USF, of the messaging. “That is how I have tried to approach my time at USF, make Tampa a better place than when I found it, make USF a better place than when I found it.”
Not only has Cecil’s diligence resulted in being a four-time member of the American Athletic Conference’s all-academic team, but he is utilizing his platform to assist others.
Since the July 2021 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door for college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), several athletes have aligned with companies selling everything from shoes to cars. The legislation also provided opportunities for athletes to engage in fundraising initiatives.
For Cecil, that has meant helping Bodie Wyatt. In April, the seven-year-old was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Through the Big Man Big Heart platform that was launched by Florida State offensive lineman and St. Petersburg native Dillan Gibbons, Cecil set up a GoFundMe page in support of Bodie and his family, which has faced spiraling medical costs.
“To be able to use my platform for him, that was the biggest thing for me,” said Cecil, a Jacksonville native. “Bodie is a great kid and has taught me a lot about keeping my spirits up, and he’s a seven-year-old kid. It just shows what is really important.”
Gibbons founded Big Man Big Heart, an incorporated non-profit while playing for Notre Dame. It was founded in support of Timothy Donovan, who he befriended during his time in South Bend. The platform, launched last August shortly after NIL legislation was passed, has been instrumental in not only supporting Donovan and his family, but has expanded to the point that a handful of college football players have come on board. In addition to Cecil, Florida’s Jordan and Ethan Pouncey and UCF’s Tyler Paul are among those who are also a part of Big Man Big Heart.
“Having Brad as my ambassador at USF made it easy,” said Gibbons, who initially reached out to Cecil last November and ultimately connected him with Bodie and his family. “Brad cares about people and he has been a joy to work with.”
The help Cecil has been able to provide for Bodie and his family underscores what Gibbons wants to continue to achieve with Big Man Big Heart.
“It’s an opportunity to support somebody and tell somebody’s story while appreciating day-to-day struggles that a person is going through and what family members are going through,” said Gibbons, who along with FSU teammates Jordan Travis and Malakai Menzer are supporting those affected by Hurricane Ian.
Cecil is appreciative of the opportunity to lend a hand for such a wonderful cause.
“It has been extremely rewarding,” he said. “It has taught me to be thankful for what we have in life. It has showed me to not take anything for granted and to soak in every moment because you never know. Tomorrow is not promised.”