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Gavin Class, Towson football player

An offensive guard for the Tigers, Gavin Class hopes to become the first athlete ever to compete in a contact sport after receiving a liver transplant. He'll suit up for Towson's 2015 spring practice less than two years after collapsing of heat stroke during an August 2013 team workout.

Class, whose temperature soared to 108 degrees, nearly died as his heart stopped and most of his organs shut down. But surgeons at University of Maryland Medical Center replaced his liver and saved his life.

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Class, 22, struggled to learn to walk and talk again. The Monkton native has spent the past year working — and sometimes willing — his body into shape.

"God has a plan, and this [setback] was in my path, and he kept me alive for a greater purpose," he said.

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Those who know Class don't doubt his motivation.

"Gavin might be the toughest damn kid I've ever seen," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "Will he come back? I believe he will. Should he come back? If for no other reason than to put on his helmet one more time, for one more play. He'll do it for validation."

Class is "a natural competitor and, like most elite warrior-minded individuals, it's hard to let that go," said John Donatelli, Towson's offensive line coach. "After all, it's what has brought him back this far."

(Klingaman's pick for 2014: None)

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