CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Trace Chaney dreams about football. He watches it on TV, carries a playbook to recess and keeps track of his favorite team. He hopes to one day be a coach.
"He's obsessed with football. Every minute of every day, if he could, that's all he would do," said his mom Margaret Mocko.
So a chance to practice and pass a ball with NFL players was a dream come true. You could say the rising middle school student from Hickory won a prize. A Charlotte athletic trainer and motivational speaker invited Chaney to practice with NFL players Ruvell Martin, an eight-year veteran and a current free agent, and Travelle Wharton, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, along with the Ardrey Kell High School football team.
While that invitation would sound good to any young boy, it meant even more to Chaney. He has Cerebral Palsy. While all of his friends can run and play, Chaney has trouble simply getting up.
"It just hurts when you get up and lift your legs high and extend it again. It really hurts when you do that, “he said.
Chaney will undergo surgery that will help his pain and improve his function, but it is a complicated operation. He'll need a lot of mental toughness to get through it, his mom says.
That is why the invitation meant so much to Chaney and his mom. The student athletes and coaches at Ardrey Kell invited Chaney to be their "visiting coach." For a day, Chaney passed the ball to players and yelled the drills. The kids presented him with a signed football. The NFL players high fived him and joked with him as they ran drills. Chaney's mom called it one of the best days of his life.
"Anything we can do to help him get through the surgery is going to be great for us,"
Chaney's surgery is at the end of the month. He'll face nine months of rehabilitation, much of that in a wheelchair. But he says having this experience will give him something to remember, something to hang on to, something to strive for when the surgery is behind him.