12-year-old JoJo joins Notre Dame football team
The Notre Dame football team has many star recruits, but this fall – they signed their toughest member yet. Pierson “JoJo” Sult, 12, signed his letter of intent to be an honorary member of the football and cross country teams through Fighting Irish for Life. The program pairs children battling life threatening illnesses with Notre Dame athletes.
"It means a lot, I've always watched Notre Dame football and I've always represented them,” JoJo said.
"I think that what Pierson can do for that football team and those cross country runners, and for the kids in that 18-22 year old range, they can look at him and think, 'Man I'm having a bad day but you know what Pierson's had a lot more bad days and he's still smiling,’” said TJ Sult, JoJo’s dad.
Smiling, dancing and making jokes - that's how Pierson, or JoJo as his friends call him, approaches everything - even when a simple ache in his arm turned into a fight for his life.
"You just don't think to have an X-Ray taken because you think it's a growing pain. That growing pain turned out to be Ewing Sarcoma,” TJ said.
In 2017, JoJo had surgery to remove the humerus bone in his left arm. It was replaced with a cadaver bone and secured with 12 steel screws. The new bone will grow with him, but his fight was just beginning.
This past February, JoJo had surgery to remove 4 tumors from his brain.
"The reaction was based on where it was. Brain surgery. Brain is neuro, it's the mechanism of everything behind the body,” TJ said. "When they told us he only had 6 weeks to live. That was the toughest thing. But, here we are in November and we're beating it."
JoJo's mom saves everything, even the mask he wore during the radiation treatment on his brain.
“That was a rough time. But seeing how good he's doing now makes me very happy," said Trina Sult, JoJo's mom.
"A lot of my friends tell me that I'm really brave, but I just think it's just me,” JoJo said.
JoJo’s strength and positive attitude resonates with sports. He has connected with the Indianapolis Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the Notre Dame baseball team and the San Francisco Giants.
As the newest member of the Notre Dame football team JoJo got the chance to go on the field before the Irish played Virginia Tech.
His favorite part was being in the huddle as the team got hyped before the game.
“It's amazing, there's no feeling like it,” said JoJo.
That moment wasn’t just life-changing for JoJo, the Irish are also drawing inspiration from their new teammate.
Daelin Hayes- Notre Dame Defensive End C0043 6:16
"That's a mindset that you want to embrace in like everyday everything. Whether it be school, whether it be football, whether it be just any type of struggle you're going through in life. Just understanding that somebody may have it worse than you. And just being grateful for the opportunities that you do have that'll ultimately drive you to maximize every opportunity that you do have,” Daelin Hayes said.
"Just the fact that he's not going through it alone. You know, he has a team, two teams actually, that are behind him. I hope he knows that he gives us inspiration each and every day,” Jalen Elliot said.
"I'm already starting to feel like it's a family. It's a brotherhood you know,” JoJo said.