Touching Touchdown: Disabled teen's dream comes true in the end zone
The Bosqueville Bulldogs design an unforgettable moment under those 'Friday night lights' for a student with special needs.
Not only did the varsity football team win on Nov. 8, they setup a play so their biggest fan could help.
"He's probably our biggest supporter," said Coach Kelly Nunn.
The Bulldogs made classmate Conner Castillo's dream come true by letting him come in the game to score a touchdown.
"I'm really happy tonight," said Conner.
The sophomore at Bosqueville High School plays sports in disability leagues, including football, but this was the first time he'd ever scored on a high school football field.
"I wanted to score!" he said. "It just felt good."
Conner, 16, has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair his entire life, but his disability hasn't stopped his love of sports and the Bulldogs.
"I really like it here at this school," he said.
On Senior Night, the team arranged it with their opponent, the Axtell Longhorns, to let Conner carry the ball from the 50-yard line to the end zone.
"That was a really good touchdown that I did," he said.
Head football coach and Athletic Director Clint Zander agreed.
"He did a good job of hitting the hole and he exploded through the secondary, it looked really good," said Zander. "Thing he's got to work on: he can't spike the ball when he scores next time."
Making the gesture even more special: it was his big brother Aaron's last regular season high school football game, and he got to push his little brother across the goal line.
"My brother was with me the whole time, we were running," said Conner.
Conner and Aaron's father Shawn said it was a moment he'll never forget.
"You hear about things like that happening, but for them to include him tonight, it being the last game of his brother playing as a senior...I think it's pretty cool to be able to have both of my sons out there where they can help each other, support each other, and show 'em what brothers are for," said Shawn Castillo.
He says he never thought he'd get to see his sons play together on the same team.
"Aaron says he's Conner's arms and legs--to have two boys that can become one, it's unbelievable as a parent to see that unity," he said.
Along with keeping it a secret, Zander said the logistics were the hardest part.
"Trying to figure out 'when' we were going to do it, make it seem as realistic as possible," said Zander.
He said Axtell was willing to put the competition aside to help.
"Coach Reynolds was on-board form the beginning, and their players and their cheerleaders were fully involved and into it," said Zander.
The touchdown was symbolic and didn't count, but with a final score of 55-6, it wouldn't have affected the outcome.
"It seems like something small to us, but to him it was a really big deal, and every second was worth it," said Zander.
While it didn't make a difference on the scoreboard, it made an impact on Conner.
"I'm glad I got to play in this game," he said. "It was a really good moment to remember."
Nunn, Conner's teacher and Head Basketball Coach for Bosqueville ISD, shared the sentiment.
"It makes you realize--it's not usually the big tough stuff, it's the little moments, the little things that you're going to remember forever," said Nunn. "Who really has the disability here, you know what I mean, because this guy's a winner."
Conner thanked people for watching his run, his brother for helping him, his father for bringing him, and the school and coaches for letting him play.
"This wasn't just a 'gift' to him, it's something we feel like he earned," said Nunn. "Leaders make people better that are around them, and he does that, and he has every right to not have that attitude with what's going on in his life, and that's just what makes it such an inspiration is his spirit and passion for not only his life, but for his classmates and the athletic program here at Bosqueville."
Conner's father graduated from Bosqueville HS in 1989, but unlike his son, he wasn't into sports at all.
"I don't even know if attended a football game while I was in school," said Shawn Castillo. "Now I'm learning positions, I'm learning plays, I get to go to the line of scrimmage and we see the touchdowns, we know the procedures now, keep up with schedules."
He says having a disabled son is a blessing, not a burden.
"It's great, it really is, the kid's broadened my whole horizon as a parent," he said. "It's not hard work, it's extra enjoyment, extra activities you get to do, it really is."
He says he wouldn't have it any other way.
"You can have an able bodied child and you can send him off with his friends and you hear about a game or your hear about an event: with Conner I get to experience the game with him, I get to experience the event with him," he said. "It really is a pretty neat deal."
Shawn Castillo says the staff at Bosqueville ISD has taken his son under their wing.
"The experience is unbelievable," he said. "The way that they've changed things, come up with different activities, the field trips that they do, they've got him in different programs, they reach as much as he wants to be reached, they really do."
He says he was touched by the effort they made to reach Conner at the game; he didn't know exactly what was happening beforehand, but they told him earlier in the afternoon something special was being planned for his son.
"It's not something I ever thought my son would be able to do, but it's something he and I have talked about," said Shawn Castillo. "He can do it in his head, he can do anything in his head, he has got a mind where he is growing every day, but to actually see some of his dreams come true? Ya, it's cool."
Conner's mother was also there to see the moment.
"That was so great, I'm so proud of you!" she told him when he got off the field.
The touchdown happened a week before Conner's 16th birthday.
Shawn Castillo imagines Conner will remember the moment for years to come.
"We'll be talking about this for a while," he said.