All throughout the area during the fall season, hundreds of children meet together on grass fields to learn and to play football. It is undoubtedly the premier fall sport, and brings joy and excitement to more than just those taking part in the active playing of the sport. However, for some, the joy is much different than for those in the huddle and running each play.
Lucas Mayberry is one of those fans of football that is unable to participate in a full capacity due to a disability.
“He’s eight years old, but he has the mentality of a four year old, he’s four years behind his age,” said Jason Mayberry, the father of Lucas.
Aside from not being in the same mentality as other children his age, Lucas also has some hearing impairments in both of his ears, and had cataract surgery when he was two years old.
“He has a lot of issues,” said Mayberry.
One thing Lucas has no issue with is his love of football. The eight-year-old fan first started attending Northwest pee wee football games to cheer on two of his cousins. He wouldn’t stay a fan though, as he would join the team in a support role, helping in any way he could.
As an assistant to Aaron Brackman, the team’s coach, Lucas began helping his team as a water boy, and more importantly — team motivator. Brackman said Lucas began coming to practices throughout the week and was at all the games. His team gets Lucas involved any way they can during practice, and with the help of several of the player’s parents, Lucas even got a jersey, so he would look like the rest of his teammates.
Lucas is full of energy according to Coach Brackman.
“On game time, sometimes he’ll stay on the sideline, but you have to keep a hold of him because he’ll want to run out on the field and try to make a tackle,” said Brackman. “He’d get out there (on the field) during game time if you let him.”
Brackman said Lucas was around last season, but didn’t start helping until this season.
“He’s real fun to have around,” said Brackman. “He’s real energetic, and just wants to come out and get involved with the kids as much as he can.”
Both Mayberry and Brackman have been impressed with how the team has adopted Lucas.
“They feel he is just as much a part of them as what anybody else is,” said Brackman.
Mayberry believes the way his son has been treated by the other members of the Northwest fifth grade team is truly phenomenal.
“You rarely see a 10 or 11 year old kid act like that to another person who has something wrong with them, a disability,” said Mayberry. “They just took him under their wings and made him their mascot and everything else.”
“It makes me feel good that their parents are teaching their kids right,” said Mayberry. He believes it is out of the ordinary to have a group of kids to include another kid like his son, as an equal, and not an outsider. “My boy is different, but they don’t treat him any different,” said Mayberry.
During a home game on October 17, Lucas received an opportunity to be involved in a play during a game against Eastern. Toward the end of the game, Lucas participated in a play on the field.
“They let him run a little touchdown into the end zone, which was really good,” said Brackman. “He just ran it right up the middle, right behind his fullback, right into the end zone and scored six points.”
According to Brackman, Eastern was very accommodating to allowing Lucas to run a play.
“They acted like they were going to tackle him, it was just great to watch,” said Brackman.
Lucas’ entire team wanted to run him into the end zone that Saturday, but not all were able to be on the field with him due to only 11 players being allowed on the field for each team.
Having the opportunity to participate on the field, and in the game is something Lucas will never forget, according to Mayberry.
“He was so excited, and so happy after running that touchdown,” said Mayberry.
After scoring the touchdown, Lucas began jumping up and down. Several of his teammates picked Lucas up and carried him around and celebrated with him.
“He’s not much for words, but you could just tell by his facial expressions that he was excited,” said Mayberry.
Lucas has been a real inspiration to all of his teammates.
“He’ll go up to them and start screaming at them and getting them all fired up,” said Brackman. “He interacts with them and gets them fired up.”
Brackman has also been inspired by Lucas.
“He’s very loving,” said Brackman. “You have to give every kid a chance, he’s a joy to have around, because he is always happy.”
“It’s a special thing that they are doing for him,” said Mayberry. “I hope all the other kids see that, and I hope that there are other teams that will do what they have done for him.”
Football is not the only love for Lucas, who is also a participant in the Challenger Baseball League in Wheelersburg.
“We went to the state tournament in Toledo,” said Mayberry. “He enjoys it too.” Lucas plays outfield for his Challenger League team, and has a love of announcing as well.
Mayberry said Lucas will definitely be back with his fellow football teammates next season, as his teammates move up to the sixth grade team.
Reach Michael at 740-353-3101, ext 1931