An Atlee football player had his five minutes of fame when he scored an 80-yard touchdown in a game against Varina. Sepp Shirey is a committed member of the Atlee football team, but he doesn’t have the ease and agility that the other players have, as he has cerebral palsy, which restrict his ability to walk, let alone run across the field. Oftentimes, Sepp can be seen using crutches to assist his mobility. Having been born with the movement disorder, Sepp has learned how to manage his way around obstacles. While most would be deterred from the game, Sepp has an undying love for football and his school team.
Friday night it was Sepp’s turn to have his chance on the field, and coach Matt Gray put him in the game. While this wasn’t Sepp’s first time on the field during a game, it was one that would he will remember forever. Gray had met with the rest of the team before the big game and asked the defenders to simply place their hands on Sepp in a two-hand touch, without actually tackling him. But, Sepp’s dad, Hunter, had other plans. He told Gray to let them tackle Sepp.
When Gray notified the referees of the plan, they passed it along to Varina coach Stu Brown.
In the middle of the play, Gray called for a handoff to Sepp, but Varina’s defenders chose not to tackle him. Instead, they went wild cheering Sepp on as he with a ball in his hands 80 yards down the field, without crutches. The other players ran by his side and cheered him on until Sepp fell into the arms of his teammates after he raced into the end zone.
“I had no expectations,” Gray said. “This kid carried the ball for a touchdown.”
Thanks to the Brown and Varina players, Sepp had a moment that he will remember forever. The senior night was a success for everyone.
“We learned more from him than what anyone thought we gave him,” Brown, Varina’s coach, said. “The definition of physical and mental toughness is Sepp marching 80 yards. It’s the toughest 80-yard run I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll tell you that.”
Sepp is no stranger to football, as he’s immersed himself in the game for most of his life, having attended camp with Gray, when Gray was an assistant at Randolph-Macon. Gray was presently excited to have a chance to work with Sepp again when he got hired on as Atlee’s coach last year. He is an inspiration to everyone, and everyone says that Sepp crushes any expectations that you might have about a kid who has cerebral palsy.
“Sepp is like a ‘coach in a helmet,’ on the football team, said Gray. “He’s smart and attentive, always giving advice to his teammates.”
Commenters praised the team…
“Everyone should be commended for this kind act.”
“Class act Varina players!! Very much understanding from you athletes! Well done!!”
“May God richly bless all of those players and coaches! That was so wonderful! May God bless them all!”