'I was completely in shock:' Coach surprises LIU football player with scholarship

LIU coach Ron Cooper says Reese Dykstra "has all the things it takes to be on a full scholarship." Except he wasn't.

Kevin Maher

Sep 14, 2023, 7:00 AM

Updated 304 days ago

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Reese Dykstra is a sophomore on the Long Island University football team. He's played linebacker and tight end. Reese admits he's not one of the star players. He says he's more of "a grinder."
"I'm a physical hardworking player who won't complain, who will do the extra rep and won't miss a set," says Dykstra.
LIU coach Ron Cooper says Reese "has all the things it takes to be on a full scholarship."
Except he's not. In each of his first two years, Reese and his family paid about $7,000 in tuition. Reese took a part-time job at L.A. Fitness to chip in.
And this year, it got worse. Due to rising tuition and a change in his family's financial aid, Reese's bill increased to more than $20,000.
"That's a big difference for our family," said Reese's mom, Kim. "I really thought it was time for him to take inventory and say how much do you want to do to your body, because there is a cost to all this."
But Reese said he couldn't walk away, so he came back this season deeper in debt but just as dedicated.
"He kept grinding, Kept pushing, always on time, attitude's always good," said Cooper.
So a few weeks ago, Cooper decided to do something good for Reese at a team meeting. Reese thought the meeting was going to be about the usual team rules, but then Cooper surprised Dykstra will a full scholarship.
"I was completely in shock. I couldn't believe it was happening," said Reese. Video shows Reese burying his head and wiping tears from his face.
"I was so happy that Reese was validated for his hard work and his effort. I was like, "Good for you buddy," his mom told News 12.
In fact, Reese called it the greatest validation of his life and said behind those tears, which he could not hide, was a lot of happiness and a lesson he hopes everyone will learn.
"You're going to get knocked down, and you just have to keep swimming. And every obstacle that hits, keep going forward," says Reese.
The Sharks start their season Saturday against Ohio.


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