Timothy to Tally: FSU grad transfer using NIL platform to change young man’s life

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 7:39 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - It’s a story that spread quickly across social media and it’s origins are right here in Tallahassee.

Dillan Gibbons is using the new name, image and likeness policies to get his good friend, Timothy Donovan, to Doak Campbell Stadium.

A big man with a big heart: That’s Gibbons.

Florida State’s newest offensive lineman is a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, where he spent four years.

But, he’s so much more than a football player, using his platform and name to make a lasting difference in one young man’s life.

Gibbons says he could talk for hours about his relationship with Timothy Donovan. But, he has to start where it all began; moments after his first game at Notre Dame.

”I walked outside of Notre Dame’s facilities kind of towards Touchdown Jesus, and I was approached by like 40 kids. All of the kids want a piece of memorabilia, whether it’s the hat I have on my head or the gloves I have in my hand,” Gibbons recalled. “I made eye contact with Timothy. The only person who was actually looking me in the eyes.”

Timothy and his family are die hard Irish fans; getting the chance to meet a Notre Dame football player was more than enough.

But, what spawned from a random act of kindness turned into much, much more.

”Right away, Dillan came over and started talking to Timothy and it was pretty cool, because he kneeled down and started talking to him, gave him his gloves. And ever since then, they’ve just been really good friends,” recalled Paula Donovan, Timothy’s mother. ”It was just one of those organic relationships that you read about in stories, but you never think is going to happen to you.”

Gibbons was moments removed from playing his first game in an Irish uniform, an experience like no other. But, it was his interaction with Timothy that left him wanting more.

”A lot of people will walk into his life and walk out the same day. A lot of people don’t give him the benefit of the doubt. They’ll give him a relationship for 24 hours, but then never speak to him again,” Gibbons said. “So I didn’t want to treat him like that. I wanted to build a real relationship with him, get to know him. Timothy has a lot going on.”

Timothy was born with an anatomical condition called vacterl, or defects of the vertebrae.

He wasn’t expected to survive.

Later, he was diagnosed with charcot marie tooth, an incurable disease that affects the nerves in his hands and feet.

After that, a bout with thyroid cancer.

In total, Timothy has had over 50 surgeries in his life, and more battles at 18-years-old than many have in a lifetime.

”Imagine never being able to put a pair of shoes on your feet. Something we take for granted every day of our lives just having the ability to put on a pair of shoes,” said Gibbons. “He’s just had an incredibly tough life and I just wanted to do as much as I could for him as possible.”

Fast forward to 2021.

Gibbons, now a grad transfer with the Seminoles. His first game as a Nole is against those familiar golden domes, a moment he couldn’t imagine having without Timothy.

”When I thought about Timothy and I thought about what the potential was and what I could do for him, what I was able to do for him with my name, image, and likeness. I started writing out a game plan.”

After over a year of planning, Gibbons started a GoFundMe to get Timothy to Tally.

And it took over.

In just over 24 hours, it raised over $30,000.

Timothy? He’s pumped.

”I would like to thank my good friend Dillan for setting this fundraiser up. Next I would like to thank everyone who’s donated. I really appreciate the love and support. I’m so excited and looking forward to cheering for my friend Dillan in Florida,” Timothy said in a video shared by Gibbons on Twitter.

His parents are overcome with gratitude, thankful for someone like Gibbons.

”What touched my heart is just, Dillan saw more in Timothy than just his disability or a wheelchair. He got to know him for who he is. So if anything out of this story, give people a chance. Get to know them and you’ll be surprised,” Paula shared.

And for Gibbons, the feeling is mutual.

”Me and Timothy have had two radically different paths in our lives, but we are very like-minded individuals. The way I see it, if Timothy was in my shoes, he’d be working this hard for me,” Gibbons said.

A unique and inspiring friendship deeper than the surface.

As far as Timothy’s rooting interest in this one, he say’s he’ll change his allegiances on September 5.

For the Donovan’s trip, lodging has been covered, a nurse has volunteered to travel with the family and FSU is even giving the family some gear.

Gibbons’ GoFundMe is well over $40,000, with a new goal of $75,000. If you’d like to donate, you can do so by clicking here.

Every cent is going to the Donovan family.

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