It’s FALL, y’all, and even COVID can’t keep Friday Night Lights down: most districts in America’s heartland have found a way to keep football games going, even if they aren’t doing in-person school. For the most part, the injection of community spirit that high school football brings has been a real winner, even if there are fewer fans in the stands and they’re all wearing masks. Crisp air, bright lights, and the snap of the pigskin are always special, no matter what.
But. You’re about to see what is arguably one of the most uplifting football moments of all time.
In the midst of a global pandemic and national turmoil, it is literally what we all need right now.
This incredible moment came courtesy of two South Dakota high school football teams, the Platte-Geddes Black Panthers and the Gregory Gorillas. Late in the game, Panthers head coach Bruce Hanson called a time out, even though his team was leading Gregory 42-6. This time out wasn’t for strategy, yet it was an incredibly powerful play.
You see, Coach Hanson knew the moment had come for Brady Sprik to take the field . . . in his motorized wheelchair. Sprik, a senior, had been badly injured in a car wreck his freshman year and is now paralyzed from the mid-chest down. The accident ended his football career. Hanson and the Black Panthers wanted to give it back to him for one shining moment.
And man, did they deliver.
After Sprik motored out to the field, the quarterback handed him the ball. Brady then stood up from his wheelchair and two teammates assisted him to the end zone where he scored his first touchdown as both teams applauded.
It was enough to make a grown man cry, and I’m sure it did.
The Gregory Gorillas were getting crushed, yet they stood up and applauded as the opposing team made one more touchdown. Coach Hanson had arranged it with their coaching staff before the game. That, my friends, is sportsmanship.
Brady Sprik put his disability on display for all the world to see. That, my friends, is strength.
It was heartwarming and inspiring, and so much bigger than football.
Asked how the touchdown made him feel, Sprik answered “Ecstatic. I was just really happy. It’s been three years since I put pads on and it feels good.”
Congratulations and thank you to both teams, to Brady Sprik, and to the coaches for giving us all a dose of much-needed perspective and humanity during the craziest of times, at a high school football game of all places. I pray you carry that moment with you for the rest of your lives.