Texas in October is consumed by football. Athletes of all ages suit up on any given night on any given field. On a chilly, rainy night in October, the Clyde football field provided the stage of a memorable and touching touchdown run by one special needs athlete.
On a designed play, Jim Ned pee wee football player Garrett Gill took the handoff from his quarterback and started running. Clyde football players were unable to tackle him but after running into the end zone and scoring his first touchdown, he was surrounded by his teammates and the same players he had just evaded while making a memory for a kid living on borrowed time.
Garrett’s coach approached the Clyde coaches before the game and asked them to allow Garrett to score that touchdown.
“Listen, we've got a kid on our team that needs to score a touchdown. He's out there giving it all he's got. Wants to be out there, but just can't be out there every play,” Jim Ned coach Rob young told the Clyde coaches.
Doctors didn’t expect 10 year-old Garrett to live past the age of five. He has Leukodystrophy, a condition that develops in the early months of life. A white layer of cells fails to grow of the Thalamus in the brain, which controls speech, movement and mental & physical development. As a result, patients like Garrett can suffer organ failure and die.
“At three months of age, I noticed he wasn't hitting his milestones. I went to his doctor, he noticed it too,” said Garrett’s mother, Kimberly Jones.
She was shocked when she heard the news.
“Why? You don't question God, but why? I didn't... I couldn't help but say why is this happening to my little boy? What happened?”
But the adversity Garrett’s battled through in his short life doesn’t stop there. He also suffered a stroke before he was born which impaired his speech. And seizures prevent him from taking part in contact drills at football practice.
“He could have a very bad epileptic seizure. And if its not controlled properly it can lead to death. Any kind of seizure can lead to death,” Jones said.
At first glance, Garrett strikes you as just another 10 year-old kid that loves sports and wrestling with his older brothers.
"We've strived to live the normalcy that we live. They told me he wouldn't walk! He's running! He lives a normal life. He lives with these other children like nothing (is different)," Jones said.
For a kid like Garrett, who’s endured so much and still smiles at virtually all times of day, simply scoring a touchdown was more than enough to get excited for.
When asked, on a scale of 1-10, how exciting it was to score his first touchdown, he said it was higher that.
And his first reaction when he scored? “Booyah!”
“Whenever he spiked it, it made my day. He turned around and he's saying yeah. And its great,” coach Young said.
Something that seems as simple as missing a few tackles and cheering for a kid scoring a touchdown goes beyond face value. Just ask the opposing coach that told his kids to give up a touchdown so one little kid could have a dream come true, and an entire stadium could cheer for Garrett on a cold Wednesday night.
“It’s not all about winning in life. It’s about helping others also,” Clyde pee wee coach Sylvester Roberts.
“It was not just a touchdown. I was in tears. Everybody beside me were in tears,” Garrett’s mom said.