Vanderbilt Basketball Manager With Down Syndrome Goes Above And Beyond His Managerial Duties

Vanderbilt Basketball Manager With Down Syndrome Goes Above And Beyond His Managerial Duties
VU Commodores

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University is lauded for its academics and SEC athletics. Within the past decade, Vanderbilt chartered a program called "Next Steps" that integrates young adults with special needs into the typically developing classroom. Ranging from Autism to Down syndrome to Cerebral Palsy, Next Steps has a variety of students looking to earn their degree from the prestigious Vanderbilt University. 

One such student is named Rob Funk. As the son of Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, Rob is used to the limelight. He and his family have been the subject of numerous articles and news stories all over Tennessee. At Vanderbilt, Rob is a freshman in their Next Steps program and serves as a manager to the Women's Basketball team. 

Emily Apple and Rob Funk
Vanderbilt Women's Basketball managers Emily Apple and Rob Funk

Slightly spoiled, Rob's cousin and dear friend Emily Apple has served as the manager to the Vanderbilt Women's Basketball team since she was a freshman. When Rob was accepted into Vanderbilt, Apple knew that Rob loved sports - previously, he was the manager of Nashville's Franklin Road Academy football team- and was good at completing tasks like filling water bottles, folding clothes, and other such managerial chores. She went directly to Coach Stephanie White and requested that Funk join the management team. 

Since then, Funk has been an active member of Vanderbilt Women's Basketball team. He goes to every home game and sits on the bench with the players. During time outs, he mops the floors. When a ball is lost out of bounds, Funk goes to get it. He fills water bottles. He folds jerseys. There is nothing that Rob does not do. 

Rob Funk
Rob Funk poses while waiting to mop the floor during a time out.

More than that, Rob has brought the team closer together. He and his family will host Christmas parties, sleepovers, dinner,  and more for the women, exemplifying what it means to truly be a team player. Senior starter Marques Webb and Rob have a true friendship that extends on and off the court. She includes him in the pregame rituals, and, when she was medically evacuated from the game, Rob wept, fearing that his friend was in serious pain. 

It is these kinds of stories that flood the Vanderbilt Women's Basketball locker room. Rob Funk is more than just their manager. He is their friend. The women, as well as Funk would do anything for each other. Although they did not perform as well as they would have liked this season, one thing is for certain: this specific team will be forever bonded because of Rob Funk and his never-ending love. His impression will be on these women long after they graduate. 

Rob Funk, Marques Webb, and Emily Apple
Rob Funk, Marques Webb, and Emily Apple after a game.

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