ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has a new member on its team.
The Wolverines “drafted” 15-year-old Larry Prout Jr. to become part of the football team on Tuesday. With family members, players from Michigan’s football and men’s lacrosse teams, medical staff from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and friends in attendance at Schembechler Hall, Prout signed a national letter of intent with the Wolverines.
“Our team just got bigger,” Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s an honor to share our sideline with Larry.”
Prout was born with several serious illnesses, including spina bifida and cloacal exstrophy, and has had more than 90 surgeries.
“When I was born, most of my major organs were outside of my body,” said Prout, a resident of Howell, Mich. “I wasn’t given much of a chance to survive birth, let alone two weeks outside of the womb. I have been cut, broken, and sewn back up many, many times. Not all of the surgeries were a success but this didn’t stop my family from bringing me back to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. And this didn’t stop my team from drawing up another play and hopefully go on to win another day.”
Harbaugh recognized Harbaugh’s dedication to the program.
“Larry has been all in from birth,” Harbaugh said. “No other teams, no other visits. He’s all in for Michigan, and we’re all in for Larry.”
Jim Harbaugh meets with Larry Prout Jr., who will sign a letter of intent with Michigan today pic.twitter.com/JIxObFolZR
— Rachel Lenzi (@RLenziCMG) October 11, 2016
Prout thanked everyone who helped him to meeting with and joining the Wolverines, and read a prepared statement.
“My heart goes out to all families of children with chronic illness,” Prout said. “I am humbled to have been chosen by Team IMPACT to be involved in their program.
“My team and my world has been C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Michigan since the day I was born.
Prior to signing with the Wolverines, Prout befriended Michigan running back De’Veon Smith and quarterback John O’Korn during the summer through Team IMPACT, a non-profit based in Boston whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team.
“I think Larry picked us,” Smith said. “When we first met him, we all noticed something special about him. Walking around the building, you saw him smiling, but then he got up from his chair and started walking around, pointing at the hall of fame cases (in Schembechler Hall) and the players.
“Then, we went to the Big House, and I threw him a pass. He ran all the way down the field, got a touchdown and spiked the ball. Being around Larry makes me really think I’m honestly blessed to have met him, and to learn not to take anything for granted.”
Smith thought of how Prout told the audience at Schembechler Hall that he didn’t learn how to walk until he was nine years old. Smith was eight months old when he learned how to walk.
“I started walking at eight months old and it’s just crazy to think about that, but Larry’s such a strong kid,” Smith said. “He’s mentally tough, and he has a high pain tolerance and Larry, he won’t let anything get in his way. There’s no such thing as adversity to him.”
Prout hopes his experience — not just of being honored by a major college football program, but of his perseverance — will help others.
“I want children to not be afraid,” Prout said.