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That Halloween, just like every other Halloween, Matt was dressed as his favorite thing in the whole world: a football player. He and his other Downs buddies with went trick or treating, and he told them all about how he had finally made the team. Their team had been practicing hard lately to get ready for their big game against Deerwood.
“…and then coach told me I was on the team! He told me all about football, and we had practice and I did push-ups, and then the next day we had practice, and I ran and did push-ups…” My friends aren’t listening. I was trying to tell them about football. I’ll start my story over and maybe they will this time…
We have a big game against Deerwood soon, and I’m playing in it! Well, if coach puts me in, but he will this time, I just know it. And when he does, I’ll be ready. Maybe I’ll score a touchdown!
“Hey Matt, how was trick or treating?” asked my mommy. She’s so cool.
“Good. I was a football player! I bet my friends were jealous.” I told her.
“I’m sure they were. Are you ready for your game tomorrow?”
“Yup! I’m gonna score a touchdown!”
At the beginning of the season, Coach Mike announced there would be no cuts this year. He thought it would impress his dad, who had previously thought that he was a bad coach, if he could build a better team under these conditions. (Even though he knew that all he had to do to one up his old man was to beat the undefeated Deerwood, which the school had never done before, even during their glory days when his father was coaching.)
Coach Mike’s hopes were doused when Matt, the sophomore with Down syndrome, signed up for the team. After the first practice, Matt asked him a blizzard of questions about the team, football, and coaching. Throughout the whole first part of the season, Matt never missed a practice, let alone a chance to bombard his coach with questions about football.
At first the coach thought of Matt as a nuisance, following him around at practice and even at school, but then one day he happened to be driving through Matt’s neighborhood. He saw Matt out in front of his house with a football, running back and forth. When asked what he was doing, after Matt asked if there was a game today, he told his coach that he was practicing for in case his coach ever put him in. this really took the coach off guard and he realized that, looking back, Matt had always tried his hardest, never complained, and never given any of the other players any trouble. He started to see the situation in a different light…
Alright, the big game. There’s coach, there’s the other players, there’s my team, and there’s the big box with the numbers that says the score. I hope coach knows I’m ready to go in. I’m sure he does, I just told him a minute ago. I’ll go stand by him just in case. Oh, there’s only 2 minutes left in the game. The big box says 0-56. I hope we’re winning!
I wonder where coach is going. It looks like he’s talking to the other team! Isn’t that dangerous?! I hope he’s alright. Ok good, he’s coming back, and now he’s talking to our team. I bet he’s telling them the play to score a touchdown.
“Matt, this is your big moment.” He was talking to me now! Maybe he was going to put me in.
“I’m ready.” I told him.
“Good. Go in, start on the right side and the quarterback is going to throw you the ball. I need you to catch it, and then run and score a touchdown.” Oh, I got it. He was telling me the play that he told the other players earlier.
“Got it coach, right side, catch, run, touchdown. I’m ready.” I went back to sit down.
“No, Matt! Get in the game!!” He shouted
Wait, what? I’m in the game?! I’m in the game! “Woo hoo!” I shouted as I ran out to join the other players. Which side did the coach say to start on? Oh right, right.
“Down, set, hike!”
“I’m open, I’m open!” I yelled as the quarterback turned and threw me the ball. I caught it and ran toward the end zone. The other players seemed to clear a path right ahead of me, this was my chance. I ran as hard as I could.
25 20 15 10 5 TOUCHDOWN!!
Coach Mike had just made that day the best day of Matt’s life. It was also one of the most important days to the coach, because he realized many things. Football wasn’t about showing up your dad, it was about fun and being a team. Life wasn’t about impressing your dad either, and anyone who wasn’t impressed by him right now wasn’t worth impressing.
Matt had really taught him a lesson, and he was grateful. That was why he went over to the other team and asked them to allow Matt to score. They agreed, and Coach Mike got to do something he had wanted to do for the whole second half of the season put: Matt in.