Team manager with Down syndrome scores touchdown in New Jersey high school game

Toni Yates Image
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
NJ team manager scores special touchdown
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Toni Yates has the heartwarming story of a team manager with Down syndrome who scored a touchdown.

PARK RIDGE, New Jersey (WABC) -- It was a heartwarming night for a community in New Jersey, when a high school team manager got to score a special touchdown during a game.

Halftime Friday night was a moment for a special game play. Number 11, Park Ridge senior Matt Gray, made his debut on the football field, and the crowd erupted.

"It felt happy and I scored for my teammates," said Matt, who has Down syndrome. It has never gotten in the way of him competing in several sports, but football is his favorite.

He was Park Ridge High School's football ball manager, but on this night he was in as a player, to everyone's joy.

"He's been a part of our team for years now, and we've always wanted him to come on to the field with us," said senior Matt Allen.

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"At the end of the day it's not about football, it's about making someone happy," said Park Ridge senior Mike Lisa.

The play was run against Wood-Ridge High School's team, but 'against' may not be the best word to use, with the opposing players falling as Matt scored a touchdown.

We didn't see anyone who didn't get goosebumps on this amazing night at an amazing school, whose motto is honor and respect.

"This is truly about the friendships, the bonds that these boys have with Matt, you couldn't ask for more," said Matt's mother, Marianne Gray. "You always worry about any child going to school, but these boys have embraced him, they look after him, they take care of him, they genuinely care about him."

This night also fulfilled a wish that was born in the heart of a former coach who taught the team an extended meaning of family, who also adored the can-do spirit in the dude they call 'Matty Ice'.

The team learned a lot over their high school football career from coach Gary Mioli, who died in 2014. They rub the Mioli memorial stone before taking the field.

Coach Mioli would have been beaming to see this night happen for Matt.