Howell's Chris DeMarco and Toms River North's Daryn Blackwell are among the nominees for USA Football's 2017 Heart of a Giant Award.

DeMarco is one of 10 nominees for the program's Week 1 award, while Blackwell is nominated for Week 2. The program is presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants, and aims to recognize Tri-State area high school football players who demonstrate unparalleled work ethic and a passion for the game.

DeMarco is a senior linebacker for the Rebels, who are currently 2-0 and ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. In his nomination, DeMarco spoke of how playing football helped him cope with the loss of both his parents.

Howell senior Chris DeMarco. (Photo from USA Football).
Howell senior Chris DeMarco. (Photo from USA Football).

"When I was younger both my parents passed away," DeMarco wrote. "This was very hard for me to deal with. When I started playing football, I realized how much better it makes my life because I had such great teammates that always picked me up when I was down. Football made me realize that I am able to overcome any hard obstacles in my life because I have the help and support of my team."

Blackwell, a Shore Sports Network Preseason All-Shore selection, is a two-way standout for the Mariners at running back/tight end and defensive end. His play helped Toms River North capture the 2015 NJSIAA South Jersey Group V title and return to the sectional title game last season.

Blackwell wrote in his nomination that he hopes to study sports medicine in college and continue his football career.

Photo by Paula Lopez
Toms River North's Daryn Blackwell. Photo by Paula Lopez

"As good a football player Daryn is - and he is excellent - he is an even better human being," Toms River North head coach Dave Oizerowitz told USA Football. "He is a tremendous ambassador for our school."

Voting for DeMarco and the rest of the Week 1 nominees extends 25 days from the announcement date of Sept. 12. Voting for Blackwell and the Week 2 nominees goes for 25 days from the announcement date of Sept. 20.

The program runs for six weeks with 10 nominees each week. Whichever player has the most votes at the end of the respective 25-day period will be named one of six finalists. From there, each finalist will submit an original video showcasing why they have the Heart of a Giant. All six finalists will receive a $1,500 equipment grant for their high school football program and a gift bag. The grand prize winner will be presented with a special trophy, a $5,000 equipment grant and will be honored during halftime of a New York Giants' home game.


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