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It's the little things....a feel good story Down syndrome football player scores TD in Washington game

Posted by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 3:50 PM
  • 7 Replies

 http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Down-syndrome-football-player-scores-TD-in-Washi?urn=highschool-272803

 

Ike Ditzenberger is like a lot of other 17-year-old American football players. He dreams of playing college football. He attends daily practices. Most of the time he toils away in offensive drills. Then, on rare occasions, Ditzenberger runs into the limelight with aplomb. The description could fit thousands of American teenagers, except for one crucial detail: Ike Ditzenberger has Down Syndrome.

 

Ditzenberger, a junior at Snohomish (Wash.) High School, achieved a major milestone on Friday in a game against Lake Stevens, running 51 yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining. The "Ike Special" provided the only points in Snohomish's 35-6 loss. It was the first varsity touchdown in Ditzenberger's career, a ramble through an opposing defense that mirrors the end to Snohomish practices every day, when Ditzenberger gets the final run of practice and somehow finds the end zone, through a combination of running guile and intentionally passive defenders.

"He's someone that everybody can kind of enjoy because he has such a great personality and character," Snohomish senior captain Keith Wigney told the Everett Herald in a feature on Ditzenberger.

[Related: Female HS football player breaks down walls]

For Ditzenberger's feel-good story to go beyond practice to an actual competitive game took an assist from the coaching staff at Lake Stevens. The Vikings' coaches not only instructed their players to let Ditzenberger score, but to make it look relatively competitive in the process to make the moment more real for the Snohomish junior. In the video above you can see a handful of Lake Stevens defenders make diving runs at Ditzenberger, only to come up agonizingly short. Or perhaps gleefully short, in this case.

The moment wasn't without precedent. Lake Stevens also collaborated with Snohomish for Ditzenberger's other touchdown, a gallop through the Vikings defense in a junior-varsity game last November, which you can see below.

 

For his part, Ditzenberger has trained for such a touchdown each day for the past three years. He practices every day with the Snohomish junior-varsity team, but gets the final run of the varsity practice as long as he adheres to two conditions Snohomish head football coach Mark Perry relayed to the Everett Herald:

"I make him a deal," Perry told the Everett Herald. "‘If you keep your shoulder pads on and your mouth piece in, you're going to get a play.'"

Ditzenberger first became obsessed with football by watching his brothers play the sport. One, Jake, was also on the Snohomish team with Ike for the younger Ditzenberger's first two seasons. Taking part in a sport in which his older brother starred helps Ike bond with him, and gives the 5-foot-5 17-year-old a sense of place despite his limitations.

That role as part of a larger team has made football one of most important aspects of Ditzenberger's life. Here's how his mother, Kay, described the importance of football to the Everett Herald:

Down syndrome kids "don't learn by what they hear; they learn by what they see," Ike's mother said. "So he's a real imitator. For him to be able to watch and learn by doing, and to be like his older brothers, is a really big deal."

For Snohomish's program, Ike has become a big deal. His runs at the end of practice build camaraderie and sense of routine for the rest of the team. And they help place sports in perspective.

On Friday, the "Ike Special" even provided the Panthers' only points. Of course, Snohomish coach Perry may have had that play up his sleeve the whole time. After all, he sees just how effective it is at the end of every single practice.

by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 3:50 PM
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Replies (1-7):
Peanutx3
by Ruby Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM

I am so proud!  This was my high school.  What a great story.

SEEKEROFSHELLS
by Platinum Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 4:53 PM


Quoting Peanutx3:

I am so proud!  This was my high school.  What a great story.

    What a great group of kids at your school, and the opposing team did a great job too!

SEEKEROFSHELLS
by Platinum Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 4:55 PM

  Some things bring tears to my ears, on the beauty of human nature. This was one of those things. God Bless those football teams!

tscritch
by Silver Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 5:09 PM

 I was crying watching this! For both of those teams to do this together for one boy, just to make him happy and give him an experience that he will remember for all of his life is just beautiful. I thought that with all the bad and ills in the world that this story would be a nice break from the bad :-)

TTWWBB
by Bronze Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 5:18 PM

My step brother John-John (who is 54 now) has Downs.  I love seeing stories like this.  My daughter from the age of 2 called people with Downs syndrome "Angel People"...and they truly are. 

Peanutx3
by Ruby Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 6:34 PM

When I was in high school (14 years ago) we were very accepting of and we took care of our special needs students and I was very happy to see the care and support has continued through years.  Here is a big cheer for Panther pride.  way to go

The opposing team (Lake Stevens) is a small community like Snohomish so their behavior didn't surprise me. 

Quoting SEEKEROFSHELLS:

 

Quoting Peanutx3:

I am so proud!  This was my high school.  What a great story.

    What a great group of kids at your school, and the opposing team did a great job too!


canadianmom1974
by Platinum Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 6:43 PM

This is awesome!  I work with people with special needs, including but not limited to those with Down's, and I know just how special they all are.  It's nice to see a positive story about people lifting them up rather than beating them down and abusing them.  Our football team has a couple of my students as waterboys (I know kind of cliche) and they are so accepting of the kids - one graduated last year and the team presented him with a letterman jacket.

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