On Friday afternoon, in front of dozens of students, coaches and faculty, Cicero-North Syracuse football senior Mitch Dunay signed his letter of intent to play football at Princeton University.
Dunay racked up 1013 yards and 19 touchdowns as the NorthStars running back last fall, and as a linebacker tallied 150 tackles. He had offers from Syracuse University and Bentley College as well.
But, he played the whole 2013 season with a heavy heart, as his mother Bonnie Dunay was battling cancer. She passed away in January, but before she died, she gave Mitch something to work for.
"She had a dream I got accepted to Princeton," Mitch said. "I'm just glad I could make her dream come true. [She] would've been really proud, I wish she was here to see it."
It didn't come without hard work though, Princeton University, being one of the best institutions in the nation, is not easy to get into, and Mitch kept coming up a point short on his ACT. So, still with his and his mother's dream in mind, he drove to Pennsylvania because it was the only place that offered the ACT, took the test, and got the extra point he needed to get into Princeton.
"He did it all on his own too, he just...anything he had to do he did, he went above and beyond anything he had to do," Mitch's father Joe said.
In addition to fulfilling his mother's dream, Mitch had his own motivations for becoming a Tiger. He said he loved the campus, respected the tradition of the football program and most importantly the renowned academics at the institution.
After watching Mitch perform on the football field despite everything else going on in his life this past season, Joe Sindoni, C-NS football coach says the sky is the limit for his former running back.
"I don't think there's anything he can't handle at this point, for a 17-18 year old kid, who's been through what he's been through and deal with the adversity the way he dealt with it, I don't think there's anything life's going to throw at him that's he's not going to be able to deal with," Sindoni says.
And Mitch's father, Joe Dunay, reminds us that Mitch will have constant help at his side, regardless of the obstacle he faces.
"I told him, I said anytime you run into problems..just look upstairs..she'll be there for you," Joe Dunay says.