Before the season, Newcastle (Wyo.) football coach Matt Conzelman told the Casper Star-Tribune that he didn’t think the Dogies would get a chance to run a play for senior Derek Lewis this season.
Thankfully, he was wrong.
During Newcastle’s 60-12 victory against Wright last weekend, a goal-line play offered the perfect opportunity to get Lewis, who has Down syndrome, his first carry after four years serving as the team’s manager and tracking down the tee following every kickoff since his freshman year. Conzelman sent Lewis in motion in the backfield, and a handoff resulted in a touchdown off the right tackle.
Lewis has also played for the school’s junior varsity “C” basketball team, making 24 3-pointers over the past two seasons, but couldn’t play football for fear of a vertebra injury, per the Star-Tribune. The entire school district has thrown its support behind Lewis, sending his mother and a teacher to a conference designed to advance the education of Down syndrome students. It takes a village, after all.
“He helps us keep things in perspective,” Conzelman said. “In the end, it is just a game.
“We always talk about handling adversity and he does that better than anybody. If we do lose a game he’s always looking ahead to that next week. He’s always positive.”
Bravo to the Newcastle community for serving as a model for how kids like Lewis should be celebrated.