High school football team honors one of their own

I arrived to the high school campus at sunset. Valley Central was warming up on the field. I watched him, surrounded by his teammates, looking fierce and ready, knowing today there would be a touchdown. Tyler Muise - #43 is a friend to the team—having attending every game home and away since 2012—is a 12th grader at Valley Central high school. Tyler loves his team, but he has never played on the field due to his Down syndrome. When Tyler lost his Mom to cancer his teacher— Carole Fitts—saw a pressing need to get him involved in something.

"He took her passing hard," said Mr. Miuise, Tyler's adoring father. Mrs. Fitts thought the football team would be the perfect place for Tyler, and head coach Ron Introini along with his assistants: Michael Bliss, Doug Luciano, Pat Kemp and Joe Deboldwent went all-in to make him feel at home there. Brotherhood bonding with his team mates took hold before long, and the Vikings embraced him in the hallways at school as he did them from his happy place on the sidelines. 

Don Clark, head coach from Washingtonville said his players were totally on board and even suggested a real-time in play 6-pointer was in order. But, for liability reasons, they enacted the play before the official start. Tyler told the coach he would be "coming to get him" during an interaction earlier that evening, Clark recounted with a warm smile. 

John Kidd, publisher of the Montgomery Quarterly put a call out in advance of the game, urging the community to be there for this special moment. He framed it all beautifully: 

He’s a friend, he’s a teammate, and he’s everything Valley Central football, except Tyler Muise has never played on the big Viking field. You see, Tyler has Down syndrome, but that hasn’t stopped him from being part of the team in every other possible way.

Tyler and Viking football became best friends after he lost his mother to cancer before the start of the 2012 season. When coach Intoini recruited him, the team instantly embraced Tyler and VC football became part of the healing process which has been helping Tyler get through one of the toughest times in his life.

On Friday, October 17th at 7pm, Tyler did more than just cheer on his friends from the sidelines. He was in full gear, and it was arranged for him to take a hand off and run 15 yards for a Viking touchdown before the Section 9 Class AA Division II game against Washingtonville.

Valley Central Cheerleaders 

Thanks to Mr. Kidd, I was able to be there in the end zone when Tyler came across the field..

Incredible moment!!! The feeling was indescribable. 

I can't quite place the joy that was felt, other than to say there wasn't a dry eye in the house. The sportsmanship on both sides of the field, as well as a geniune love for this spirited player, were palpable. Thank you to all who were involved for helping to create a moment that will last a lifetime. Not just for Tyler, but for everyone near far and nationally who have embraced this touchdown with him.

School board members Sonia Lewis, Ron Freeman and Mattew Flanagan watch from the sidelines

Mr. Muise shows us Tyler's game ball