Even though he came in a small package, 14-year-old Josiah Viera was one of the Penn State football program’s biggest fans. He passed away on Christmas Eve day after a long battle with the rare genetic condition Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.
“Going to miss my friend,” PSU coach James Franklin said on Twitter. “Thankful for the time I was able to spend with him. Our thoughts are with his grandfather, family, friends & our hearts are with Josiah!”
Viera’s family announced his passing on Twitter earlier in the day.
To all our friends and fans. Josiah left to play baseball with Jesus today. Our hearts are broken. I know I will see him again soon. I’m gonna miss my baseball talks in the morning. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.
— JosiahViera/baseball (@josiahdviera) December 24, 2018
Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome causes the bodies of children to rapidly age. Despite dealing with HGPS from his earliest years, Viera became a part of the State College Spikes minor league baseball team in 2013 thanks to the work of the Children’s Miracle Network.
Viera and his grandfather, Dave Bohner, became very active with the Spikes and the Nittany Lion football program.
In fact, over the past several years, Viera had become very close with the Penn State football team. At least once per season, Franklin would carry Viera into the stadium on his shoulders as part of the Nittany Lions’ arrivals for games. They would work their way through the gauntlet of fans outside of Beaver Stadium, with Viera receiving more high-fives than the high-profile coach carrying him.
And as you can see below, Viera was also welcomed into the locker room to address the team before kickoffs.
Going to miss my friend. Thankful for the time I was able to spend with him. Our thoughts are with his grandfather, family, friends & our hearts are with Josiah! pic.twitter.com/9RsP8rLAIm
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) December 25, 2018
Earlier this year, the book, “A Short Season: Faith, Family, and a Boy’s Love for Baseball,” was published. It focused in on the early days of Viera’s family dealing with the terminal disease and then his triumphs as he persevered, all the while knowing the likelihood of him living to be an adult was remote.
It has been an emotional holiday season for Penn State fans. Earlier Monday, news broke that former Nittany Lion All-American Matt Millen received a heart transplant.