PERRY, Ohio (WJW) — It started as just another football game, but an inspirational performance by a special player made it much more. 

Aiden Sweeney, 13, has become an important part of the fabric of the West Geauga Middle School seventh-grade football team. 

Aiden has autism and has impressed his coaches with his dedication to the rigors of football. 

“He definitely brought a different energy to the team. Everyone enjoys his company. He’s great to be around,” West Geauga Head Coach Josh Petruccelli told FOX 8.

The coach had been looking for an opportunity to reward Aiden for his persistence, and he found it during the Wolverines seventh grade road game against Perry on Tuesday night.

After a timeout, Aiden took the handoff and rumbled down the field, all way to the end zone for his first touchdown for the West Geauga Wolverines.

“I put the play in and I even let the whole team name the play and they all named it ‘Big Tank’ because that’s what they call him at school, that’s his nickname,” Petruccelli said.

Before the game, Petruccelli, who happens to be a Perry graduate, briefed the Perry coach on the ‘Big Tank’ special, and she included the play in her team’s preparation for the game.

“All my boys were, ‘I want in, I want in, I want in.’ They all wanted to be a part of it.” said Coach Myndi Allen.

“Coach Myndi said that there was a special needs kid that was going to run a play and score a touchdown, I thought it was kind of cool that was going to happen,” Perry seventh grader Jimmy Trentanelli said.

Sweeney’s touchdown was an inspiration to everyone on the field in Perry that night.

“Really happy. I saw how excited he was and the whole entire team and it’s a special moment for him,” said Trentanelli.

“My boys on the field were wanting to celebrate with them and it was just a lot of joy, a lot of joy,” said Coach Allen.

By coincidence, it was Autism Awareness Week at Perry, and a number of the Perry players say they are familiar with autism because they have friends and classmates with special needs.

For those who experienced it, Sweeney’s touchdown run is an example of how sports have the power to teach valuable lessons about life.

“All around, it’s just more than winning. It’s like it can prove a lot of things.” said Perry Team Captain Traxton Richards.

According to Coach Allen, “We want our kids to be able to do anything they want to do and sometimes that means there are barriers and obstacles in the way, and so to say we just took down that barrier and obstacle so that he could go out and to be just like everybody else on his team.” 

Sweeney’s mother says the situation at school has not always been easy, and she is grateful for the boost that football and his coaches and teammates have given the 13-year-old.