Youth football is often seen by its proponents as a way to build character in those that play the game. In the case of the team from Olivet Middle School in Michigan, those lessons appear to have resonated during the 2013 football season, when they brightened the life of a fellow teammate.
That teammate, Keith Orr, weighed 95 pounds, is learning disabled and generally served as an emotional cheerleader on the sidelines for the team, wearing his trademark brown jacket over his uniform. It was not unusual for Orr to hug a teammate after a big play that helped Olivet or during the course of an average school day.
Orr’s parents had signed him up for football, knowing that he likely wouldn’t see the field. Their main focus was an effort to teach him about teamwork and give him a chance to be active.
During the 2013 season, members of the team began trying to figure out a way to include Orr in an actual play. These discussions came over the course of a number of weeks and all took place without the team’s coaching staff being made aware of what the team was considering.
The players eventually decided on a strategy that would set him up to score a touchdown during the October 5 contest. In order to increase the likelihood of this taking place, Olivet players made sure to get within a yard of the end zone. This was accomplished in an unorthodox manner, since a player had to stop exactly at the one-yard-line before then falling down.
The sight of Olivet player Sheridan Hedrick failing to score an easy touchdown on a run of just under 20 yards caused some fans of the team to express displeasure over what was taking place. In addition, Hedrick’s fellow teammates patting him on the back after the play seemingly only added to the confusion.
At that point, Orr was inserted into the game and scored his touchdown. His blocking came from a tightly enclosed group of players that simply pushed forward into the end zone. The play itself was given the simple designation of the “Keith Special,” signifying that it directly chosen for Orr’s benefit.
Orr’s parents were confused at when the touchdown was scored, wondering if their son had actually scored. When they realized the significance, they quickly took out their camera to record the event.
When the game ended, Orr’s teammates carried him off the field on their shoulders and have since begun making him a part of their lunch gatherings, when they eat together. In addition, members of the team who see him in the hallways during the course of a regular school day will make a concerted effort to speak to him.
The team’s head coach, Tim Jungel, indicated that he’s noticed a positive change in the way that Orr approaches things. The belief that Orr can take greater strides forward as he grows older has become a possibility, according to Jungel.
As much as the action has offered great pride for Orr, his teammates have also indicated the impact it’s had on their lives. Having noticed his work ethic and seeing his mental struggles, they wanted to know what it was like to be the center of attention. Offering him the thrill of scoring helped accomplish that goal.
News of the heartwarming gesture resulted in the story being broadcast across the country.