“To him, it’s just as great as the NFL.”
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On Friday night, 12-year-old Branson Maners got the chance to hang out with his favorite football team: the Ardrey Kell High School Knights, from Charlotte, North Carolina.

"To him, it's just as great as the NFL," Lindsy Maners, Branson's mom, told The Charlotte Observer. "These guys just welcomed him, and for him to be out on that high school field was pretty big time."

After getting some VIP treatment in the locker room, the fifth grader at Polo Ridge Elementary led the Knights onto the field for their last home game. With Branson cheering them on, the Knights pulled off a 41-10 win against Providence High School.

Branson has been the Knights' No. 1 fan since he participated in "Future Knights," a youth football clinic the team puts on for the community, two years ago. Sadly, its last two seasons have been canceled due to Covid-19.

Coach Greg Jachym told The Charlotte Observer that they included Branson in a special send off for the team for the first time two weeks ago, after a few team parents reached out to Lindsy to organize the special treat.

"We gave him some gear, and our players really enjoyed being around him," Jachym said, "and we invited him back."

Lindsy told The Charlotte Observer that it was a night neither of them will forget.

"I can't say enough about the amazing-ness of the Ardrey Kell football family," she said. "We have no personal ties, and they've given us this opportunity and embraced Branson. These are super guys and coach has gone above and beyond, and it's been pretty amazing, and really great to be part of that community."

As for Branson?

"I liked (running through tunnel) the best," he told the paper. "I will tell my friends I was rocking it."

Branson is a bit of a local celebrity. He and his family have worked with Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte to promote awareness and acceptance for more than a decade.

Go Branson!

We hope to see you on the field again sometime soon.