"It was one of the most moving things that I've ever seen.”
It was Vestavia Hills senior Jake Pratt’s first time on the football field, and the 18-year-old scored a 35-yard touchdown that drew both teams from their benches in celebration.
After several seasons of serving as team manager, Pratt, who has Down Syndrome, was finally allowed to dress during a game against Briarwood Christian School on Friday. Though the moment was pre-arranged between the teams, the response from the players—who mobbed him as he dabbed and danced in the end zone—was 100 percent organic.
"He was so happy," Kathy Pratt, Jake's mom told AL.com. "Jake will remember this all of his life. It will be a life-changing experience."
Pratt’s sister, Amy Hyde, shared a video of the incredible moment on Twitter, which has since garnered more than 52,000 retweets and an avalanche of media attention, including shoutouts from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Atlanta Falcons and many NFL personalities.
"It was one of the most moving things that I've ever seen," Vestavia Hills coach Buddy Anderson told AL.com
Anderson, the winningest coach in Alabama High School Athletic Association history, explained that after Pratt’s parents approached his staff about letting Jake suit up, the young man had earned it. He had dutifully attended every summer workout and weight-lifting session leading up to the game.
"If you're going to dress, you've got to do everything everybody else does," Anderson added. "The kids have the utmost respect for him for being there every day. He's there every day and works hard every day."
Briarwood coach Fred Yancey told AL.com that he was happy to be involved in the magical moment. "We were tickled to be a part of it, and I hope it encourages that young man," he said.
Briarwood player Jay Matthews agrees. "Jake's TD run was an honor for BCS to participate in," he told AL.com. "Usually, both teams clearing the bench is not a good thing, but seeing our guys running to the end zone to celebrate with Vestavia was uplifting and exciting. Our prayer is that the Pratt family was blessed, and I am sure this will be a beautiful memory for a long time for everyone involved."