Cooper Ross played high school football outside of the Arizona Interscholastic Association football spotlight, excelling in the 8-man game at Mesa’s Heritage Academy, showing that Type 1 diabetes won’t derail his dreams.

On Thursday, during a signing ceremony at the school, Ross sealed that dream with his signature to play football for the BYU Cougars.

First, he’ll be going on a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s my goal to push myself harder than I ever have before,” Ross said. “This opportunity has just opened the door for me and now I need to push myself to go be the best I can be.”

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior defied the odds of the 8-man player game, going to a top college football program on a full-ride scholarship, never letting diabetes get in the way of his passion.

He was surrounded by family and friends during this memorable day at a school that never had such a moment to celebrate.

Heritage Academy in Mesa plays in the Canyon Athletic Association, where many small state high schools compete. The team went 7-2, losing in the state championship game. Ross was named all-state both at defensive end and tight end and was the CAA Player of the Year.

Ross modeled himself in high school after Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, who has Type 1 diabetes and was The Arizona Republic Player of the Year his junior season at Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

Ross’ diabetes was detected in August 2018, before he started his high school football career.

“When I finally felt like I conquered diabetes in regards to football was my sophomore year when we were in the state semifinals,” Ross told The Republic in January. “We’d worked hard to get there and it had been a crazy ride because of diabetes.”

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

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