A love of football and a life taken too soon has given high school football students a chance to give back and achieve greatness in their own ways.
Dillon Reagan was a football player at Issaquah High School when he met his future wife, Ryann.
“My husband and I met when we were students at Issaquah High School and football was his life, so football really quickly became my life as well,” Ryann said.
Dillon played college football at two different schools in California — Redwoods Junior College and Humboldt State University, a Division II school.
Once Dillon graduated college, he was given the unfortunate news that he had a rare and aggressive form of neuroendocrine cancer.
“My husband was the greatest man that I have ever known and he unfortunately had these circumstances in his life much earlier than it should have been and the one thing that he loved so much and valued so much was his body and his toughness and what he was able to do with it. I saw cancer take that away from him (but) his mental toughness never went away,” Ryann said. “He battled it as hard as he could for just a little over a year, but he passed away on Aug. 9 of this past summer and in the wake of his death we tried to figure out the best way to honor such an incredible life,” Ryann said.
To honor Dillon, Ryann, Austin Reagan (his younger brother) and Ryann’s dad, David Bloom, came up with the idea to create a scholarship award in his name.
The idea for the name of the award, Dillon S. Reagan Hammer, came from a favorite award that Dillon won during his time in college.
“One of the awards that he won that he was always most proud of was this simple little award in college that his coach called the Hammer Award,” Ryann said.
She said he could hit like hammer, hence the name of the award. She said he was known for his ability to play his best no matter what was going on in his life. He always finished the job for his team.
Before Dillon passed, he coached football at Bellevue Christian High School, so Ryann wanted this award to go to high school students at the school he coached at, Issaquah High School — where he went to high school and then at Hazen High School — which is where his former high school coach, Chris Bennett now coaches.
“He always loved the players that kind of emulated that same level of toughness both on and off the field, no matter what’s going on at home or what went on at school that day or whatever you’re feeling, no excuses, no quite attitude,” she said.
Ryann said each school can decide the criteria for the Hammer Award, but the intent is to give it to a player that shows overall toughness, like a “hammer,” and shows up everyday ready to play.
Students who win this award will receive a scholarship of $2,500 and a $1,000 donation to the Hammer Cancer Foundation, a foundation Ryann and her family came up with at the same time of the scholarship. The foundation provides support for those battling a neuroendocrine cancer, patient care, clinical trials, prevention and research, Ryann said.
The scholarship money goes toward any and all after-high school college education, anywhere from joining the military to a four-year college, Ryann said.
“Whatever they choose to do after graduation, we will support them with $2,500,” she said.
Last year, Bennett and his coaching staff chose an outstanding athlete from Hazen High School to receive this award for the 2017 season.
Bennett said he first heard about this award when Ryann emailed him a while back.
“When she (Ryann) sent me the email the first time, it brought me to tears because of the passing of Dillon and just how she would reach out to me and tell me some of the things that I meant to Dillon and the fact that she would like to give us this award at Hazen and let us continue his memory, it was special. It was an honor,” Bennett said.
Vance Dumas, a junior defensive lineman, was the athlete who received the scholarship.
“Vance has a lot of the characteristics that Dillon did — on the field ferociousness, he was defensive linemen of the year in our league, and off the field — just a great smile, happy,” Bennett said. “Not only was he a great player like Dillon, but off the field he resembled the same personality.”
Dumas said he was not expecting this award at all and said he didn’t know about it until the end of the year banquet.
He said at first he didn’t know how to react but he said he is very honored and grateful for this award.
Dumas said he hopes to play college football once he graduates from Hazen.
Ryann said she is happy they get to carry on Dillon’s greatness through the athletes of today.
“Finding other students that have embodied the same abilities and have decided to live their life the same way Dillon decided to live his life, I just want to continue to celebrate that in other people because you never know what life is going to throw at you,” she said fighting back tears. “Being able to share his legacy and to speak his name and talk about him and celebrate him through these young kids who are moving up in the next generation, it’s been a way to try to make sense of a terrible tragedy.”