In 2010, high school football players in Washington and Indiana helped teammates with Down Syndrome score special touchdowns, leaving lasting memories for players and fans and, in one case, turning an unsuspecting 18-year-old into a Seattle-area celebrity.
In 2011, the trend of wholesome inclusion seems to have spread to even younger players, with a group of seventh graders in a junior football league ensuring that the required play a teammate with Aspergers got to participate in was a memorable one.
The player rumbling for a touchdown in the video you see above is one Evan Reeder, a seventh grader who lives in Monticello, Ill. Like most boys his age, he loves football, his friends and fitting in at school. Like many boys his age in Illinois, Reeder plays in the junior football league, in the league's heavyweight division. Rules for the open registration league insist that each player on the roster who dresses out for a game must play in that game. Reeder was dressed for a recent home game against Shelbyville, Ill.
With the game out of reach in the fourth quarter -- Monticello was nursing a 22-6 lead at the time -- Reeder's coach decided to put him in the game. Yet, when he asked Shelbyville coach Matt Cloe to make sure he wouldn't get hurt, Cloe responded that if Reeder was handed the ball, Shelbyville's players would let him run all the way in for a touchdown.
The rest, as they say, is history, particularly for the Reeder family, as Evan Reeder's mother, Cindy Reeder, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Shelby County News.
Not only did all your young men go along with this but they ran to the end zone to congratulate Evan along with his own team mates.
I truly don't think I have ever seen such a display of kindness and support to a stranger in a sport activity.
Of course, similar displays of kindness did occur a year ago at the high school level. Still, the good will exhibited at such a young age in Illinois is inspiring, regardless of the score when Reeder ran in.
Needless to say, that touching sense of communal good will wasn't lost on Cindy Reeder.
"This entire display of unselfishness brought tears to my eyes," Reeder wrote to the Shelby County News. "If only I could thank each and everyone one of your coaches and players I would."