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VCU student’s story earns him shot at $100,000

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- VCU freshman Ryan Kovacik has played baseball his entire life, but he's hoping that football will be the key to his future.

Kovacik is headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game where Dr. Pepper soft drinks will hold a football toss contest that gives the winner a $100,000 scholarship. Ryan submitted a video online detailing his desire to become an orthopedic surgeon and was one of five finalists chosen.

"Everybody knows that school's not cheap" Kovacik said. "It's going to be a long, expensive road especially with med school."

"This would mean more than anyone could know."

Ryan has spent the past 2 weeks practicing in his garage, tossing footballs into a garbage can hung on the wall by his father. A neighbor bought him $200 worth of footballs, and his boss at Disco Sports has given him time off from his 30+ hour per week part time job to go to the game. But hitting a target in a garage is much different than throwing in front of 80,000 fans in the Georgia Dome.

"That's the one thing I'm nervous about" Kovacik admitted. "But I'm confident my baseball experience will help."

For Kovacik and his family, this is more than an ambitious dream. He is hoping to continue a family legacy. Kovacik's mother was a nurse before she passed away last August. Kovacik didn't express his desire to pursue a career in medicine before she died, but now he's convinced she will be watching this Saturday.

Kovacik's father lost much of their life savings trying to salvage a family business, so while $100,000 would help any student, it would mean a lot more to Kovacik and his family.

"It's been a rough couple of years" Kovacik said. "So just to have some joy would be really nice."

Kovacik will take part in a preliminary round on Friday, and the top two performers from that will advance to Saturday's competition. Kovacik has already won a $2,500 scholarship for being a finalist. The runner-up Saturday will earn an additional $23,000.

The SEC championship game can be seen on CBS 6 Saturday beginning at 4pm.