A TEENAGER who broke his back while saving his best friend’s life is moving one step closer to realising his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Dylan Graves, 16, has signed up for the Pro Elie Academy, which has a partnership with League One club Rochdale.
As part of the move, the winger will study at Hanson School from tomorrow for the two-year Pro Elite football education programme. This will see him study for three A- levels alongside playing football full-time.
Dylan, of Thorp Edge, has made a remarkable recovery after he suffered two broken vertebrae, a fractured pelvis and a bruised lung when he was hit by a car and trapped between it and a fence in January 2016, aged 12.
He pushed his friend James Yeadon to safety and bore the impact of the Vauxhall Vectra himself, as it rolled down a hill in Rowantree Avenue, Thorpe Edge, just a few hundred metres from the family home in Sandholme Drive.
His brave actions left him seriously injured, and for his heroics he was named the Child/Teenager of Courage at the 2016 Pride of Britain Awards.
The Pro Elite programme means left-footed Dylan has many pathways to progressing in the game, including competing in the FA Youth Cup and playing in the highest standard of league outside professional academy football.
Natasha Graves, Dylan’s mother, says her son, who had a previous spell training with Bradford City’s Under-16s Elite Development Squad, is gearing up for an exciting future.
She said: “It’s very exciting.
He is hoping to be picked up by a club. He wants to be a professional footballer. That’s his aim
“He has got it in him to go for it. Through covid and the lockdown he has been keeping to a strict diet and running 5km every day. He is so strict with himself. He knows what he wants.
“It’s even better considering what he has been through. He starts at Hanson Academy on Friday.
“He is fighting fit. He is doing better now than before his accident. He’s left footed and he’s so fast.”
Luke Dean, director Pro Elite, says the education side of Dylan’s development is equally as important as the football.
He said: “Pro Elite offer players the opportunity to progress their football ability at semi-professional and professional level.
“We emphasise all our students become better people on and off the pitch.
Dylan has other opportunities after his two-year course to further his education at university or gain an American scholarship
“We are delighted to offer Dylan a two-year scholarship. We have seen in the short time he has been with us that’s his attitude to learn, improve and develop as a footballer and a person.”
As part of his prize for winning at the Pride of Britain Awards, Dylan was given tickets to watch England play Spain at Wembley later that year.
He was presented with his award on stage by football mad singers Olly Murs and Louis Tomlinson – of One Direction fame – and Dylan and his friend James were each given a scooter.
England women’s national team’s coach Phil Neville and fellow ex-England international Jamie Redknapp then joined Dylan on stage to present him with a signed England football shirt.
At the star-studded ceremony he also met famous faces including Sir Tom Jones, Dame Joan Collins, Sir Cliff Richard and the late Professor Stephen Hawking.