Football player with Down syndrome scores touchdown

Football player with Down syndrome scores touchdown


by ALEX REED / NewsChannel 36
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Posted on December 2, 2009 at 8:20 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 2 at 8:30 PM

NEWTON, N.C. -- He's a high school senior who no one thought would be a football star.

Diagnosed with Down syndrome, senior Justin Weisner was not considered starting lineup material. But with one touchdown run he changed everyone's expectations.

It was complete madness at a high school football game between Newton-Conover and West Caldwell in early November. Newton-Conover Red Devil running back Paul Forney was on the field at the time.

"It was nothing that's ever happened before," he said.

"I've never been a part of a touchdown where both teams celebrated," said Newton-Conover Coach Nick Bazzle.

 All of the celebration was for senior Justin Weisner, affectionately called "J-Weezy" by his teammates.

Weisner's genetic disorder causes mental and physical limitations, but he refuses to let that slow him down.

Bazzle says Weisner made the varsity team this year as a senior. He was a backup lineman, who, as coach puts it, "Kept talking about wanting to score a touchdown."

Red Devil left tackle Michael Comer says Weisner is constantly asking, "All the time, 'Coach, can I run the ball? Coach, me quarterback?"

When asked why, Weisner replies, "It feels good."

Just like his big smile, Weisner's belief in himself brings out the best in his teammates.

"It's cool just to see him always smiling. He always tells us that we're going to win," said Comer.

Forney describes Weisner as "real funny. Everybody likes him on the team."

But the backup lineman didn’t see much playing time. Nevertheless, Coach Bazzle says, "He stayed pretty persistent wanting to run the football."

So the coach made up a play during practice, which the 5-feet-8, 220-pound senior affectionately calls "12 Big."

Weisner would run while the defense fell down at the mere sight of him.

"We'd always make time to let Justin practice his play," said Bazzle.

But on Nov. 6, Bazzle worked it out so he could run the play during a game against West Caldwell.

"So his eyes get all big and he's real excited," Bazzle said.

Forney remembers thinking, "At first I thought he was just joking around."

But the play was called, and just as expected, Weisner ran and his opponents in the white jerseys fell down at the mere sight of him. In fact, Weisner made it all the way to the end zone. And then, something unexpected happened.

"The sideline emptied," said Bazzle.

Swarmed by high-fives from players in both colors, Weisner, the former backup lineman, had brought out the best in the entire stadium. Players piled on top of him, the roar from the stadium was deafening. Comer couldn't believe his eyes.

"It's awesome to see the sportsmanship that comes out with the two teams," he said.

Bazzle says Weisner showed everyone what high school sports is all about.

"There probably weren't many dry eyes left in the stand," he said.

 And while Weisner's teammates prepare for the playoffs, the only thing on his mind right now is, "More 12 big!"