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David Walczyk and his Walled Lake Western teammates wore Pink uniforms during their Week 3 win over Walled Lake Northern. This is the third year in a row the program has staged its' "Warriors for Warriors" cancer fundraiser, featured in an NFL-produced television commercial last Sunday during all nationally-broadcast games. (Photo Oakland Press file photo)

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FOOTBALL: WL Western receives accolades from NFL for charity work, appears on national TV

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WALLED LAKE – Those watching the NFL on Sunday might have done a double-take when they saw head coach Mike Zdebski and the Walled Lake Western Warriors high school football team flash across the screen.

They weren’t seeing things.

The NFL aired a 30-second segment on all of their nationally-televised game-broadcasts Sunday, highlighting Zdebski and his Western program’s cancer fundraiser, known as “Warriors for Warriors”, which celebrated its third anniversary back in September.

“It was pretty cool and a very special occasion for the whole community,” Zdebski said. “There’s really nothing better to be recognized for than helping others. We created a buzz around the school and with our alumni for a great cause and that’s awesome to know.”

While a 30-second spot ran on television during commercial breaks, a longer, two-minute version was posted on the NFL’s official website.

During the team’s Week 3 home game versus cross-town rival Walled Lake Northern – a 44-35 Warriors’ win – Western held its’ annual “Pink Out” game, where each player wore a pink-colored jersey with the name of someone close to them touched by cancer on the back.

All the proceeds from the game’s gate and concession and apparel stands went to benefit cancer research.

The NFL became aware of the Warriors’ philanthropic efforts via Western’s involvement with, “Crucial Catch,” a breast-cancer fundraising program funded by the American Cancer Society in conjunction with the NFL (ACS is one of the charities proceeds are donated to from the event).

The color pink has long been associated breast-cancer research and several prep teams from around the area have held “Pink-Out” games in recent years to honor the cause.

Earning accolades from the NFL is something of tremendous pride for the Western family.

“We were flattered and extremely proud to have our story told to the entire country,” Warriors for Warriors co-chair Linda Ishbia said. “The impact has been felt all around the district, not just at the high school.”

Jake Ishbia, Linda’s son, is a senior wide receiver on the gridiron for the Warriors this fall.

Another Warriors' player, senior linebacker Rick Passino, who lost his mother to breast cancer, was featured prominently in the NFL-produced commercial.

Western is currently undefeated at 7-0 and holds the No. 5 ranking in the state in Division 2.

Two weeks ago, the Warriors captured their second Kensington Activities Association North Division championship in the last three years.

Zdebski has been at the helm of the Western football program since the late 1990s and has won a state title (1999) and led the Warriors to repeat district crowns the past two seasons, including a trip into the final four in 2011.

Last Updated: 10/16/2013 11:04:18 PM EST


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