Ryan Hollingshead: Broken Neck, Unbreakable Spirit

FC Dallas' Ryan Hollingshead was named on Thursday the 2017 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year, presented by AdvoCare.

The 26-year-old put his career and life on the line to help a stranger in need this January. On an icy night in Irving, Texas, Hollingshead, who was en route to help a friend who had been in a car accident, stopped to help another driver at the scene of a separate accident.

A car had hit the highway median and the passenger was left stranded in the fast lane at dusk without headlights. Hollingshead pulled over and got out of his car to offer assistance, but was struck by an oncoming car and thrown 30 feet into the air, breaking three vertebrae in his neck. One hundred and twenty-eight days after the accident, Hollingshead miraculously returned to the field, coming on as a second-half sub and receiving a standing ovation in FCD’s 1-1 draw against NYCFC. He finished the season with 19 appearances for Dallas, including nine starts.

“Our clubs, partners and supporters are committed to making a difference in our communities and we’re proud to have players across the League who play such a vital role in those efforts,” Major League Soccer Chief Administrative and Social Responsibility Officer JoAnn Neale said in a statement released by the league. “Ryan’s selfless act exemplifies a true humanitarian. As the 2017 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year, it is an honor to recognize that type of sacrifice and dedication to the Dallas community.”

Hollingshead was drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. The UCLA product declined to join FCD that season, instead fulfilling a promise to his brother Scott to help build a church in his native Sacramento. After a year away from the game, Hollingshead joined FCD, making his professional debut on May 31, 2014. He appeared in 62 regular season games across the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

The California native is very active in his community and church.  Since joining FC Dallas, Hollingshead has worked with the Jessie Rees Foundation, Never Ever Give Up visiting patients at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to offer his support and motivation through his faith and the game of soccer. Additionally, Hollingshead regularly speaks to the Student Ministry at Frisco Bible Church and volunteers at The Village Church men’s and children’s bible study groups.

In recognition of Hollingshead’s humanitarian efforts, MLS WORKS will donate $5,000 to the charity of his choice. Hollingshead will participate in a Facebook Live (Facebook.com/FCDallas) today at 1 pm ET.

MLS teams had an opportunity to nominate candidates for the Humanitarian of the Year award (view all nominees), which was voted on by club officials, media and MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting for the highest scoring candidates:

Ryan Hollingshead (DAL)2.87%24.36%23.27%16.83%
Matt Lampson (CHI)16.80%3.85%12.58%11.08%
Luis Robles (NY)6.15%15.38%6.92%9.48%
Diego Valeri (POR)10.66%3.85%8.81%7.77%
Jordan Morris (SEA)6.97%5.13%10.38%7.49%
Kelyn Rowe (NE)6.15%8.97%5.66%6.93%