Donovan balls with DeSean Jackson
My Wish: DeSean Jackson
Nothing, not even an unexpected rainstorm, could ruin Donovan Troy's wish. In fact, the weather made Donovan's day even better.
Troy, a 10-year-old from Atlanta, spent the rainy day inside the Philadelphia Eagles' practice bubble with his idol, DeSean Jackson.
"Because it rained that day, everybody was in one place, so he really got to meet a lot of players," said Donovan's mother, Tara Troy. "He even got a chance to learn how to take punt returns and kick with the kickers."
One month after he was born, Donovan was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of sickle-cell anemia.
Donovan had to avoid situations that could exacerbate his condition, such as being outside in extreme heat, or even swimming. Football specifically was discouraged, especially after Donovan's spleen was removed when he was a toddler. He now needs monthly blood transfusions. Contact sports could create serious complications.
Donovan's uncle, Cedric, was 32 when he died from the same condition. But Donovan loved football, and while his parents wanted to protect him, they also didn't want him spending his whole life in hospitals.
When he was 5 years old, Donovan played football for the first time, on a team coached by his father, Al. Donovan played a little bit of quarterback and had some success, but for his health, he took the next two years off. At age 8, he scored his first touchdown, though he was decidedly low-key about it.
"He scored and handed the ball to the referee and walked right back to the huddle," Tara said. "I was surprised. He wasn't quite into the dancing yet."
Now, whenever Donovan gets a chance, he imitates Jackson's touchdown dance. How the youngster from Atlanta became a fan of the fifth-year wide receiver from Philadelphia remains a mystery to his family.
"My husband and I were born and raised in Atlanta; so, we're both natives, but he is not a Falcons fan at all," Tara said. "He loves DeSean. He always talks about how fast he is."
At the end of May, his parents set up Donovan with a special highlight video in his normal playlist. After a clip of Jackson's season highlights finished, Jackson popped on the screen to deliver a personal invitation to Donovan. At first, Donovan didn't believe he was really going to Philadelphia, and kept replaying the video. And then it finally sunk in -- Donovan would get to meet the man he had idolized for so long.
Two weeks later, Donovan and his family were off to Philadelphia, where he met Jackson. Donovan shared Jackson's locker and received his own customized jersey, which he took onto the practice field.
"He got to dance with DeSean Jackson, so he loved that," Tara said. "He got to field punts. And they filmed him doing that and went in the film room, after, to watch it on the big-screen TV and had his name on [the film] and everything. So that made him feel special, as if he was really part of the team."
Of course, no practice for Jackson would be complete without getting some work in with his quarterback, and that was the case for Donovan, too. After a little one-on-one coaching from Jackson on running routes, Donovan caught passes from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
"Once [Jackson] showed him how to run routes, he got to catch passes and didn't drop one the whole time. That was really cool for him," Tara said.
After the film session, the day at practice was nearly over, but there was still one last surprise in store. Jackson, an avid rapper who has his own label -- Jaccpot Records -- brought Donovan to a recording studio and had the youngster lay down a verse for an Eagles rap.
"[Donovan] really was excited about that," Tara said. "We didn't even know DeSean was into music like that. He and DeSean went into the studio and recorded a song and they gave us the CD before we left. He'll always have that to remember."
Back at home, Donovan plays the song every day, and it's his mother's ringtone. Donovan now plays baseball instead of football because it's safer, but he's still dancing. Only now, he's doing it to his own beat.