RAVENNA, Ohio — A high school senior with Down syndrome who dreamed of playing football had his dream come true Friday night with help from the opposing team.
Number 42, Luke Neer, is usually cheering the Southeast High School Pirates on from the sidelines, but he took the field with his teammates as they faced the Field H.S. Falcons in Ravenna.
“Some things are bigger than football,” said Pirates Head Coach Patrick Youel, “To make someone’s dream come true tonight, and humble ourselves, and give back to someone is awesome.”
It was actually Coach Youel’s idea that he first got three years ago when Luke approached him about joining the team.
Christina Neer, Luke’s mother, remembers it well, “Coach said back then when Luke was a senior he was going to find some sort of way to get Luke in a game.”
They chose this game because Coach Youel started his career at Field and he knew they’d want to participate.
The two opposing teams even held a practice together Thursday night because they wanted the play to feel authentic.
“There was no other team to call to do something like this,” said Youel.
All of the coaches and players were grateful and excited to take part in the night, which started with Luke leading the team onto the field and then running the ball in from the 50 yard-line for a touchdown.
“Luke’s a great kid. He’s one of us,” said Michael Bolbevich, Pirates QB, “I’m thankful I got to be part of this amazing experience and the person who hands the ball off to him and score the touchdown.”
The entire team even charged the field, celebrating Luke, while his family, friends and everyone in the stadium cheered wildly for the senior. Although the points didn’t count, they say what happened on the field is far more important than any scoreboard.
“I would hope it opens up other people to see everybody’s the same. We all have dreams and we’d like to live them out,” said Luke’s dad, Eddie Neer.
The Pirates treated the Falcons to a great meal as a thank you.
Additionally, more than 350 t-shirts were sold with “Luke’s Dream” printed on front were sold at the game. They were sponsored by Hoover Fence Co., Sports Xpress and Gionino’s Pizzeria. Proceeds from the sales will support the Down Syndrome Association of the Valley’s upcoming Buddy Walk.
Registration for the walk on Sunday September 22 is still open and people can sign up to be on “Team Luke.” Click here for more.