Stacy to host Down syndrome clinic

May 1, 2018

By Zac Ellis

NASHVILLE – When Zac Stacy starred as an All-SEC running back at Vanderbilt, he never needed to look far for motivation. His younger brother, Justin, inspired him on a daily basis.

“Win or lose, when I’d walk back up to Star Walk after a game, Justin was always the first one to greet me in his No. 2 jersey,” Stacy said.

Justin, who lives with Down syndrome, always managed to keep life in perspective for his older brother. Now Zac Stacy spends much of his post-football life advocating for others who live with the same disability.

This Saturday, in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), Stacy will host the First Annual Zac Stacy NDSS All-Star Clinic at the Vanderbilt Recreation Center in Nashville. The event will feature football drills and games, lunch and a photo and autograph session for children with Down syndrome and other disorders. Several former and current football stars from Vanderbilt, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and more are slated to attend, as well.

To Stacy, the All-Star Clinic is a chance to make a difference with a cause close to his heart.

“The NDSS hits home for me because of Justin,” Stacy said. “It’s about advocating that these kids are just trying to live their best lives. These kids are special and unique in that they don’t care about the label of having Down syndrome.”

Zac Stacy formed a bond with Justin, 21, while growing up in Centreville, Ala. As the older Stacy grew into a Vanderbilt signee after a stellar football career at Bibb County High, Justin kept pace stride-for-stride while watching his brother train.

“When I worked out, he’d be right there to spot me,” Stacy said. “When I jogged around the block, he’d jog with me. Now, anytime I come home, the first thing he does is pull out a football or a basketball and we go play in the yard.”

That relationship continued through Stacy’s career at Vanderbilt. Stacy evolved into a workhorse back for the Commodores from 2009-12, leaving West End as the program’s leader in career rushing yards (3,143) and career rushing touchdowns (30). Following a three-year stint in the NFL cut short by injury, Stacy took on a more involved role with NDSS. Last year he became an “athlete ambassador,” speaking at camps and events across the country in advocacy of Down syndrome individuals.

With his All-Star Clinic at Vanderbilt, Stacy aims to help teach kids with Down syndrome the importance of an active lifestyle. The clinic will include modified football drills for kids, with assistance provided by former Commodores like Javon Marshall and Wesley Tate and current Titans Kevin Byard and Jurrell Casey. “One thing people don’t realize is it’s very important for these kids to be as active as possible, because of how different their bone growth is,” Stacy said.

Families with kids wanting to participate can visit the NDSS website and register to attend. Vanderbilt fans and others from the Nashville community are encouraged to come support the clinic, as well. Stacy hopes this advocacy for Down syndrome sparks a tradition in the mid-state community.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of this,” Stacy said. “I hope we can make this an annual event in the future.”

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.