15 Sports Stories That Will Tug At Your Heartstrings

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15 Sports Stories That Will Tug At Your Heartstrings


Sports are amazing in every possible way. There are so many games played every single day throughout the world where nothing really happens except one team wins and another loses. However, sometimes we are lucky enough to witness an astonishing act of sportsmanship and kindness that tugs at our heartstrings.

Whether it is a professional sports team inspiring an entire city or a high school player bringing an entire town to tears, there are so many heartwarming acts that have taken place over the years it is hard to pick just 15 to focus in on. However, that is exactly what I did. There are so many not on the countdown that deserve to be mentioned but I believe I did the list plenty of justice.

While going through the countdown, just remember that some of the people mentioned performed their acts out of the kindness of their hearts. Meanwhile, the others that are mentioned are simply incredible figures who did nothing more than follow their dreams, which in itself inspired other people to follow theirs. That’s pretty much what sports are anyways. It’s a way for athletes to reach the top of the mountain while motivating others to reach their own personal goals.

Make sure to click through the slideshow to see 15 sports stories that will tug at your heartstrings and inspire you in every single way. Also, make sure to comment below if there are any particular heartwarming sports stories not on the slideshow that you think belongs on the list.

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15. 2009 New Orleans Saints

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005. The New Orleans Saints took it upon themselves to inspire the team with their play during the 2006 season. After a 10-6 record, the Saints unfortunately lost to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game. However, they still gave the city plenty to cheer for during a rough time. The 2009 Saints finished the job as Drew Brees led the team to its first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

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14. Vince Papale

Philip Nelson Flickr

Vince Papale’s effort on a semi-professional football team opened the eyes of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil, who gave him a tryout. Papale made the final cut and became the oldest rookie in NFL history at 30 years old. He played wide receiver and on special teams for three seasons in which he recovered two fumbles and hauled in a 15-yard reception. Papale’s efforts on and off the field landed him on the Eagles 75th Anniversary Team, as well as, named Man of the Year by the Eagles in 1978.

Mark Wahlbeg played Papale in the Disney movie Invincible.

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13. Michael Oher

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Michael Oher grew up with a rough childhood, but that all changed when he was adopted by a couple named Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy. The couple had two children who also became a part of Oher’s family. Oher used the help from his family to get selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. The offensive tackle won a Super Bowl with the team last season.

Actress Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for portrayal of Leigh Anne in the movie The Blind Side, which is based on Oher’s life.

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12. Miracle On Ice


The Miracle on Ice is one of the greatest stories in American sports history. A group of amateur and collegiate players made up the U.S. men’s hockey team who competed in the 1980 Winter Olympics. It was a classic story of David vs. Goliath, with the Soviet Union national team playing the role of Goliath. Coached by Herb Brooks, Team USA went on to defeat the Soviet Union in stunning fashion by a score of 4-3. The reason why the story is so amazing is because the Soviet’s had won every Olympic tournament and world championship since 1954.

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11. Pat Tillman Enlists in U.S. Army

Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Tillman is one of the most inspirational professional athletes who ever lived. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Tillman decided to quit professional football and enlist in the U.S. Army Rangers. This is a man who had the money and the fame most players dream of having. However, he decided it was his patriotic duty to enlist in the military and fight for America’s freedom. Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004.

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10. Nate Haasis Gives Up Record


In his final game as a senior, quarterback Nate Haasis set the conference record for passing yards in a career. However, the final drive that was needed to set the record seemed too easy to Haasis, so much so that he investigated why the opposition did not appear to be playing hard. Nate’s coach had made a deal with the opposing coach in order to make sure Haasis set the record, which meant the defenders would not tackle.

Instead of accepting the record, Haasis wrote a letter to the conference’s board and demanded the previous record stand because he wanted to protect the integrity of the game. It was an incredibly unselfish act that was important for all to see. The unfortunate part about it is Haasis clearly had it in him to break the record regardless.

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9. Matt Ziesel Scores Touchdown


Matt Ziesel, who was born with Down Syndrome, is a huge fan of football. Unfortunately, he was never able to feel the exhilaration of scoring a touchdown. That all changed when the head coach of St. Joseph Benton asked the head coach of Maryville if they would allow Ziesel to score. Since Maryville as up 46-0, they decided it would be just fine. Ziesel ran for a 70-yard touchdown while his dream became a reality.

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8. Meghan Vogel Helps Injured Opponent


Meghan Vogel was in last place of a 3200-meter race at the Division III finals in Ohio. Unexpectedly, Arden McMath, who was the runner in front of Vogel, collapsed. Vogel easily could have continued with the race and avoided a last place finish. However, she decided it was more important to help McMath to the finish line. What makes it even more special is Vogel allowed McMath to cross the finish line first.

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7. Bethany Hamilton Refuses To Give Up Surfing

OtterBox Flickr

The story of 13-year-old surfer Bethany Hamilton and the tiger shark that bit her left arm off is very well-known. However, what might not be as well-known is that Hamilton refused to give up her love. In fact, she was back surfing just one month later. She is now a professional surfer who has become an inspiration to so many people all over the world.

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6. Derek Redmond Finishes Race


Derek Redmond is an Olympic hero who is the very definition of someone who doesn’t give up. At the 1992 Summer Olympics, the sprinter pulled up after he felt his hamstring give out. Instead of accepting defeat, Redmond decided to limp his way to the finish line with the pain of agony on his face. Just when it seemed he might not make it, his own father ran onto the track and helped him the rest of the way.

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5. Michael Ferns’ Gift To Teammate


Michael Ferns is an incredibly talented running back who received offers from many Division I schools. He’s someone who can power his way to the end zone on a consistent basis. St. Clairsville High was up big over Edison High in a contest on Oct. 5 of last year.

Ferns, who plays for St. Clairsville High, was on his way to score another touchdown before he stepped out of bounds at the one-yard line. It gave freshman Logan Thompson, whose father had passed away two days prior to the game from a stroke, a chance to score for his old man. On the very next play, Thompson crossed the goal line. It was the first carry of his varsity career.

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4. Davan Overton Gets His Basket


Davan Overton was born with a cyst on his spine that slows brain development and gives him a speech impediment. He loves sports but was unfortunately unable to play anything with too much contact because one hard hit to the head could kill him. Therefore, basketball was the most logical choice.

Overton never really got a chance to play unless it was a blowout, and he certainly never scored a basket. In a contest against Falls City, Ethan McConnell decided to change all of that. With Falls City up big, Overton got in the game, but no matter how many times he shot he couldn’t get a basket to drop. With the clock winding down, Overton shot again and missed. McConnell got the rebound, called Overton’s name and passed him the ball. Overton’s shot went through the basket as the buzzer sounded.

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3. Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger Dresses


A majority of sports fans have seen the movie Rudy, which is one of the most inspiration sports movies ever made. What some people may not realize is that the film is actually based on Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger, who really did play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Rudy had a hard time with school because he was dyslexic. However, he overcame all odds when he got into Notre Dame. His next goal was to fulfill his dream of playing football for the Fighting Irish.

At just 5’6” and 185 pounds, Rudy worked hard and earned a spot on the scout team. Head coach Dan Devine decided to allow Rudy to suit up for the last home game of his career. He was put into the contest on the final kickoff and was allowed to stay in the game at defensive end. The first play was an incomplete pass, while the second one Rudy sacked quarterback Rudy Allen. Rudy is just one of two players in Notre Dame history to be carried off the field by his teammates.

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2. Sara Tucholsky’s First Home Run


Western Oregon softball player Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run until her senior year. As excitement fulfilled her, she forgot to touch first base as she rounded towards second. Tucholsky realized a mistake had been made and turned around to go back. Unfortunately, she tore a ligament in her knee and collapsed.

As Tucholsky crawled towards first base, the umpires stated her teammates and coaches couldn’t touch her otherwise she would be ruled out. The umpires also stated that they could replace her with a pinch runner but Tucholsky’s home run would actually be ruled a single. That’s when Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman asked if she and her teammates could carry Tucholsky around the bases to complete the home run, which the umpires deemed fine.

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1. Jason McElwain’s Incredible Story


Jason “J-Mac” McElwain is by far one of the most inspirational and heartwarming stories to ever occur in any sport. McElwain, who was born with autism, wanted nothing more than to play basketball. To get into one game would be a dream come true. The high school basketball equipment manager got his chance on February 15, 2006 when the team’s coach put him in for the last four minutes and 19 seconds of the last game of his senior year.

McElwain missed his first two shots, one being a layup. However, his cold streak changed when he got red hot and knocked down seven shots, six of which were 3-pointers. He finished with a game-high 20 points and inspired everyone in attendance. After the buzzer, all of the fans from both teams stormed the court and raised McElwain up on their shoulders.