As they entered the 2013 season, the Garfield Wildcats Youth football team had a full roster, but head coach Juan Garces had his eyes on one more player.
"As football season started," Garces recalls. "I asked if Jason could play football."
Jason Beiser, 11, was a family friend. The answer from his parents was no.
"Jason is Trisomy 15," said mother Julie. "It's a genetic disorder. He is globally delayed. He has low muscle tone. He has the mind of a 3 year old. We were just very nervous."
Garces though continued to be persistent. He strongly believed Jason would thrive on the field.
"I have an uncle who was handicapped," said Garces. "I knew Jason would love football and I knew he would love to be out here."
With some added pressure, the Beiser's finally caved. Jason could play football. But would the other kids welcome him to the team? It seemed like an issue.
As it turns out, it wasn't one at all.
"They accepted him right away," notes Garces. "That's the way they are. They're a family."
And Jason was now a part of that family.
As time went on, Jason’s parents could see his life transform.
"We wish you could see a video of him from the first practice to the last practice," his mom Julie recalls. "He's more involved with the boys. He's blossomed a lot."
And those kids that mom worried about teasing Jason? They became his best friends.
"They took him under their wings like you would not believe. He considers those boys his brothers now," said Julie.
Jason continued to work hard in practice. As they prepared for their final game against Raymer, the coaches had an idea.
"Our coaches and their coaches, we're good friends," said Garces. "We had an understanding that if the game was out of hand, we would be able to get Jason in."
The game wasn't close. By the fourth quarter with time running out, it was time.
"I'm like this is really going to happen," mom Julie remembers. "I cannot believe they're going to do this."
The play was a run left for Jason but as it develops, he starts heading in the wrong direction.
"I'm like either way, those boys will make sure he gets into the end zone," recalls Julie.
Mom was right. Jason made it all the way.
"He put that ball up in the sky. He was happy. It was tear jerking," coach recalled.
"[I was] Proud, excited, can't believe he did it. Big cry baby... I've been for days now," said Julie.
It was a moment they'll never forget, and for that matter neither will Jason.
"I scored a touchdown," explains Jason. "That's why I love coming to my games and watching my fans cheer on for me."
A week later, no one seems to remember the final score from that day, but they all remember Jason. And they all remember the look on his face when he scored that touchdown.
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