Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Autistic football player an inspiration to many"

Came across this last night, what a great story!

Here's an excerpt (full story is here).
Kyle Weafer had never played football before, but that wasn't the only obstacle to his goal of making the varsity team his senior year.

Shoes. They were the biggest hurdle.

Diagnosed with autism near age 3, Kyle has obsessions that define his world, and many of them posed a problem for playing football.

But Kyle's commitment was stronger than his compulsions. He has so inspired his teammates and classmates at Blue Valley Northwest High School that he was one of 30 semifinalists for a Rudy Award, a national recognition that will go to a high school football player who embodies character, courage, contribution and commitment like Rudy Ruettiger, the famous Notre Dame football walk-on.

Weafer came close, finishing as one of two runners-up for the award, announced Feb. 3. He won a $5,000 scholarship.


It all started last January, when Kyle, now 19, abruptly announced to his dad, "I play football."

Bob Weafer was skeptical. Here was a kid who every day — no matter the weather — wore a purple T-shirt, silver shorts and flip-flops. Shoes, never. How would he wear the uniform, the socks, the cleats?

But his son was insistent. Dad talked with Northwest football Coach Mike Zegunis. He explained Kyle.


Meeting with Kyle and Bob Weafer, Zegunis was understanding.

Zegunis so loves football that he'll let anyone play as long as the player makes the commitment. Conditioning sessions in the off-season, 7 a.m. summer workouts, a weeklong summer camp, practices every day after school during football season.

"Don't be lazy," Kyle agreed.

Zegunis and Bob Weafer came up with a plan to ease Kyle into the routine, starting with once-a-week workouts in the weight room. Eventually, Kyle was there four times a week, just like everyone else. Kyle got stronger and stronger. He lost 37 pounds. He flexed his new muscles in the weight-room mirror. "I'll tell you what, he was a kind of a pudgy kid, and he started to look to like a football player," Zegunis said.

The other players noticed, and they noticed his positive attitude, how he was having a blast working so hard, just being a part of the team.

"You couldn't help but feel the same way — 'I am really lucky and blessed to be here and play this game,' " Zegunis said. "That's what football is, it's a game. We're blessed and lucky to play it, and I think he taught a lot of us that."

It's great that the coach was willing to give Kyle a chance, and Kyle's effort and commitment was an inspiration to the whole team.

Read the rest of the article here.

And here's some video of the story (please scroll down for the video, for some reason the video will only show up at the very bottom of the post no matter where I put the code... sorry!):


K on February 20, 2010 at 10:04 PM said...

amazing story thanks for sharing

Queenbuv3 on February 22, 2010 at 9:24 AM said...

We need more positive images of people on the spectrum. This should have been national news. Thanks for sharing. He has my vote!


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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