N.C. High School Student with Down Syndrome Scores Touchdown During Football Game on Senior Night
Sam Jordan and his parents won't soon forget the Lake Norman High School's football game on Saturday night.
Over the weekend, the 19-year-old senior ran a touchdown ahead of kickoff for a game during which the football team that he has managed for the last four seasons at Lake Norman High in Mooresville, North Carolina, faced off against Vance High School.
Sam, who has Down syndrome, opened up about the experience on the Today show Monday, telling Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin and Dylan Dreyer that the "heartwarming" and "awesome," moment, orchestrated by both teams and their coaches, "was the best thing that ever happened to me."
"It felt pretty good good because it brought [the teams'] character — showed them that they really care and just let me run that touchdown," he said. "That was the biggest encouraging moment for me."
The game took place during the school's senior night. As Sam's mom Greta recalled on the Today show, "We just reached out to the coaches, and we wanted him to be a part of senior night with all the other senior players, and that's all it took."
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"They said, 'He's not only going to be a part of it — we have something special that we're cooking up.' So they took it from there, and then that beautiful sight of inclusion that you see," she added of the viral video that has racked up more than 2 million views on Twitter as of Monday afternoon.
In the video, Sam can be seen rushing down the field to the cheers of both his teammates and the opposing team, who congratulate him and even lift him into the air after he scores.
Sam's dad Roger, a former football player himself, said on Today that "it was absolutely amazing" to see his son on the field, calling it both a "highlight" for himself as well as of Sam's entire "high school career."
"When he was born, we had no idea that he had Down syndrome. It was two weeks after he came home that we even knew," Roger said. "For me, the first thing I thought was, 'He's never gonna be able to play football.' And this was a dream come true for me and for him."
"And when they told me they were gonna dress him out, I told my wife, 'He's got to have cleats. He can't just go out there in tennis shoes and run — he's gotta look the part,' " the proud father added. "I'm so thankful to the coaches and to the other team, as well — the sportsmanship that they both showed."
Lake Norman football coach Jonathan Oliphant previously spoke with The Charlotte Observer about having Sam on the field, saying that they "wanted to do something for him that he wouldn't forget."
"You try to teach these kids to be good people and good husbands and good dads," he added. "I try to live by the Golden Rule and I try to get these kids to do the same. The world's a crazy place right now, but I think we made his night."
Vance varsity coach Glenwood Ferebee told the outlet, "My background is in special [education], and I identify with those kids and I understand how special they are. I talked to my kids and said, 'Make sure that kid has the best moment because he'll remember this for the rest of his life.' "
Sam said on Today Monday that he was "feeling pretty emotional because [he] just can't believe" he got the opportunity to run for the Wildcats, who took home the victory that night with a 35-16 score over Vance.
"It's just God's blessing for letting me be on this show and tell you my emotion, because it's really awesome to be with the team," he added. "It's really awesome to be with every single person I impacted for four years."
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