Football team manager with Down syndrome meets celebrity coach.
By Justin Posey
Unless you have little to no contact with college sports, you would probably recognize the name of Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney.
His Clemson Tigers have competed in the College Football Playoff National Championship game the past two seasons and are the defending national champions.
That’s an impressive feat, and it would be easy to focus entirely on Swinney’s accomplishments as a college coach. But that would only give you half the picture.
Enter Jake Pratt.
Jake is a senior at Vestavia Hills High School in Birmingham, Alabama, and is one of approximately 400,000 Americans living with Down syndrome. Over the past several years, he has diligently worked as Vestavia Hills’ football team manager.
Jake had attended countless workouts and practices, but never suited up for a game—that is, until this season.
On Aug. 25, during the final play of a preseason scrimmage against Briarwood Christian School, Jake entered the game. He took the handoff from the quarterback and sprinted the ball 34 yards for a touchdown. The touching moment can be seen in the video below.
Afterward, Jake’s touchdown went viral on social media and was even covered by ESPN. It wasn’t too long after that thrilling finale that Clemson’s Swinney had seen the highlight and invited Jake to attend Clemson’s upcoming football game against the Auburn Tigers.
I’m sure this act of kindness alone thrilled Jake and his entire family, but you have to see what happened when Swinney spotted Jake on the sidelines Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium pregame to fully get a sense of how touching the event turned out to be.
The smiles on Jake and Swinney’s faces say it all.
As Swinney went into game mode before the two teams took the field, he could’ve easily ignored Jake and kept on with his business. But that’s just not the man Swinney is.
Upon recognizing Jake, he stopped dead in his tracks to spend a few lighthearted moments with him and to personally welcome and thank him for coming to the big game.
In this poignant moment, Swinney reflects the powerful ways one can use his celebrity status for good. But he and Jake teach us even more than that.
We can learn from both men the importance of respect, love of fellow man, kindness, decency, and the worth and dignity of every human life.
Thank you, Coach and Jake, for reminding us all that life is truly beautiful and should be cherished and celebrated.
Editor’s note. Republished from The Daily Signal.