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A bulldog at heart

Folsom boy living his dream
By: Matt Long
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Congenital hepatic fibrosis has kept Connor Ellison from playing tackle football, but it hasn’t kept him from being a football player. Ellison, a 10-year-old Folsom resident, is a member of the Folsom Jr. Bulldogs peewee football team. He goes to practice every day just like every other member of the team and works just as hard. When the hitting and tackling drills begin, however, Ellison steps to the side to watch, but he’s still living a dream. For as long as he can remember, Ellison wanted to play football and last year was to be his first season. When he went to get his physical exam before the season, however, doctors found something wrong, which later proved to be congenital hepatic fibrosis, a disease that Ellison was born with. “His liver has scar tissue in it and as he’s grown he’s developed more,” Connor’s mom, Tiffany said. “The blood can’t get through his liver so it backs up into his spleen and he’s got an enlarged spleen and liver. Any blunt force trauma to the abdomen could cause problems.” Doctors told Ellison he’d never be able to play football, crushing his dream, but not his spirit. In Ellison’s bedroom, he’s got a vision board, an area in which he places pictures of what he hopes his future holds. Ellison’s board is filled with pictures of football players, one of which has a picture of his face glued onto the face of the original picture. Months later after a story on Ellison ran in the Telegraph, Tiffany was approached by Folsom Youth Football and Cheer President Monica Camous. “I had heard of Connor’s condition and took it to the board to see if there’s something we could do,” Camous said. “We wanted him to be an honorary member of the team.” When Camous told Tiffany the news, she broke down. “I was absolutely bawling like a baby,” Tiffany said. “Connor wanted to play football so bad. Every Halloween he’d dress up like a football player. I knew he’d be so happy.” Mom was right. Her son was thrilled. “It was one of my best moments,” Ellison said. “I smiled when Monica told me. I was very happy.” Ellison didn’t want to be a water boy, standing on the sidelines rooting on his team. He wanted to be out on the field playing the game he loved, so that’s why he suits up for every practice. He doesn’t worry about getting hurt either. “I try not to think about it,” Ellison said. “I don’t like thinking about bad things.” The Jr. Bulldogs have been practicing for nearly three weeks and Ellison has earned the respect of his teammates and is a full-fledged member of the team. His coach, Curt Crandall, is thrilled to have Ellison on the team. “I couldn’t be more excited about it,” Crandall said. “I feel like I’m helping Make-A-Wish, even though it’s not. “I knew Connor didn’t want to come out and just wear a jersey and hold a water bottle. He’s been out there doing bag work and hitting the sled and I’ve given him some carries, but he’s not doing any tackling drills. “The kids treat him great. In fact, they’re so focused on what they’re doing, they don’t even realize that Connor’s not in the hitting drills.” Even though he won’t be playing in any games, Ellison surely would be if he were healthy. Crandall said he’s got good skills. “He’s very athletic and has good feet,” Crandall said of Ellison, who’s been practicing at wide receiver and defensive back. “If he was able to, he’d definitely get playing time in a game.” As for now, Ellison isn’t thinking about how the games will be when he’s not able to play. He’s just very glad to be a member of the team and be playing football. “I like to throw and catch and just wearing the pads and the jersey,” Ellison said. “I’d like tackling the most, but I can’t do that. I’m still happy to be on the team. It’s fun to be part of the team.” Ellison has achieved his dream of being a football player, and now Tiffany is hoping to achieve hers. Tiffany holds the title of Mrs. California America (her sister-in-law, Sheryl, also a Folsom resident, is Mrs. California International) and will be in the Mrs. America Pageant in Tucson, Ariz. on Sept. 2. She hopes to win and bring further recognition and attention to her platform, which is to encourage Americans to sign-up for give life through organ donation. “Connor has encouraged me to live my dream and be Mrs. California,” Tiffany said. “I’ve been to the Capitol and I’ve talked to politicians, but you’d be surprised how much more people are willing to listen to you if you have a crown.” A win at the Mrs. American competition would held Tiffany to spread the word about organ donation even more, which in the long run, could help her son if, in fact, he needs a liver transplant some day. Any Californian may sign up to donate life through the Department of Motor Vehicles when they get their driver’s license or on-line at www.donatelifecalifornia.org.