Justin Juenemann has never played in a game in four years with the University of Minnesota football team, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made an impact.
The Gophers’ backup kicker has dedicated himself to helping kids in need as a volunteer at Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches.
Juenemann, 23, had a moment he will never forget when one of his favorite kids at the hospital surprised him in front of his team with the message that he was given a full scholarship for his final season.
“Our goal was to create a moment of memory for Justin and his family forever because that’s what he earned,” Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck told TODAY.
Kyle Tanner, a teenager at the hospital who has a rare blood marrow disease, spoke in front of the team on Wednesday and singled out Juenemann as his favorite player. Tanner noted that Juenemann is the player he has seen at the hospital the most.
“It is amazing to see the joy and the smile on their faces,” Juenemann told TODAY.
Fleck handed Tanner a T-shirt gun and urged him to fire it at Juenemann. Tanner blasted a white T-shirt right on target into the hands of Jeunemann, who unraveled it to see a message written on the front.
“Justin, congrats you have earned a scholarship,” it read.
His teammates promptly went wild, hoisting him onto their shoulders in celebration.
Juenemann then FaceTimed his mother to show her the T-shirt, and she screamed in joy.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Juenemann told TODAY. “It is something that I will never forget.”
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy, who is not a star player, who hasn’t played, where his face is recognizable,” Fleck said after the surprise. “He could easily just not do it and nobody would ever say anything, and all he does is continue to keep his oar in the water, (and) live that holistic life academically, athletically, socially and spiritually.”
The scholarship for his final year will help Juenemann continue on that mission.
“I am pursing a human resources degree, and (I’m looking) to continue that and just to help people throughout the rest of my life,” he told TODAY.