When he saw a teammate juggling multiple jobs, a player gave him his scholarship

Brian Dooley surprised his teammate with his full-ride football scholarship.

When he saw a teammate juggling multiple jobs, a player gave him his scholarship
EMU Athletics
August 9, 2023, 4:06 AM

For his entire collegiate career, Zack Conti, an offensive lineman at Eastern Michigan University, has worked multiple jobs in order to stay in school and play his beloved sport of football.

Conti, a Michigan native, joined the team as a walk-on, which means he was not on a scholarship, in 2019.

"Football is something I really love, so ever since I got to school, I've had to do whatever it takes to stay here and stay in a good position with academics and football and everything," Conti, a senior at Eastern Michigan, said in a video shared by the university with ABC News. "So I work a landscaping job and I rip out carpets and I demo tile floors whenever I'm not working or not doing football or going to school. It's been a grind my whole life but, I mean, when you really want something, it's like you do what you need to do to keep it going."

Last fall, that "grind" included donating his plasma for money in order to make extra money to pay his bills, according to Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan's head football coach.

Tuition at Eastern Michigan, a public university, totals over $7,000 per semester, according to the university's website.

PHOTO: Zack Conti is a football player at Eastern Michigan University.
Zack Conti is a football player at Eastern Michigan University.
EMU Athletics

In addition to his football and financial commitments, Conti said that during this time, he's also been dealing with a family health crisis as his mom, Karen, searches for a kidney donor.

Conti's hard work and commitment to school, football and his family did not go unnoticed by his coaches or his teammates.

Brian Dooley, a fellow offensive lineman at Eastern Michigan, said the amount of work he saw Conti putting in both on and off the football field pushed him to work harder, too.

"He does a lot more than just football ... being a walk-on he’s got to make up a lot of money," he said, adding, "Putting that kind of work in on and off the field pushed me harder."

PHOTO: Brian Dooley is a football player at Eastern Michigan University.
Brian Dooley is a football player at Eastern Michigan University.
EMU Athletics

Conti said he had a hard time asking for any help, but knew that his teammates were aware of his situation.

"Sometimes asking for help is not easy, but the team usually would see me coming back from work or going to work and they would know what's going on," he said. "It wasn't really hard to be open to them about anything because I know they've got my back."

When Dooley, a graduate student in his final year of eligibility, learned that Conti was contemplating quitting the football team this season, he stepped in to help.

Dooley said he worked with Creighton to give his full-ride scholarship to Conti, who will be able to use it for the rest of his undergraduate career as well as for graduate school.

"The o [offensive]-line brotherhood is something that is hard to break. We have each other's back. That's why I wanted to get Conti's back," Dooley said. "If Conti wasn't here, I'd give it to somebody else too. If somebody is working that hard and they deserve a scholarship, I want to give it to them."

PHOTO: Brian Dooley, right, gave his college football scholarship to his teammate, Zack Conti, at Eastern Michigan University.
Brian Dooley, right, gave his college football scholarship to his teammate, Zack Conti, at Eastern Michigan University.
EMU Athletics

Dooley and Creighton surprised Conti with the scholarship this month at a team meeting.

Creighton told his players at the meeting that Dooley came into his office and told him he wanted to give his scholarship to Conti, saying to his coach, "That guy has earned it."

"I've never heard, I've never seen anything like that ever before," Creighton said of Dooley's actions.

Dooley then stood up in the meeting and handed an envelope to Conti, at which point the teammates hugged and were surrounded and cheered on by their fellow teammates.

"It just felt unbelievable, like I felt like my hard work has paid off," Conti said. "I can't really describe it. You work this hard for this long and you just hope a day like this comes where it's like you're finally rewarded. It was a great feeling."

PHOTO: Zack Conti and Brian Dooley, Eastern Michigan University football players, embrace after Dooley gave Conti his football scholarship.
Zack Conti and Brian Dooley, Eastern Michigan University football players, embrace after Dooley gave Conti his football scholarship.
EMU Athletics

Both Conti and Dooley said they're staying focused on school and football as their story goes viral.

Eastern Michigan kicks off their football season on Sept. 1 against Howard University.

"It's a family here and we've got the season coming up here soon," Dooley said. "I know [Conti] and I are going to do well, and it all starts with the o-line and we're going to take it week by week."