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FIRST-PERSON: When compassion intervenes

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–A single touchdown in a 42-6 blowout wouldn’t mean much to most people.

Jake Porter, however, isn’t like most people. And for him, the touchdown meant everything.

“To this day he is still excited about it,” Dave Frantz, Porter’s coach at Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio, told BP Sports. “He was on cloud nine. It’s been great.”

Jake Porter has Chromosomal Fragile-X, the leading cause of inherited mental retardation. But he loves football. He attends all the team’s practices and dresses for all the games. Sometimes, he shows up for practice with a whistle and a clipboard and helps Frantz “coach” the team.

On this October night, Waverly led 42-0, and Northwest had the ball with five seconds left to play in the game. Frantz called a timeout and met Waverly coach Derek DeWitt at midfield to talk things over. The two coaches had discussed the situation the week before, and Frantz wanted to make sure they were in agreement.

“He wanted Jake to take a knee,” DeWitt told BP Sports. “I agreed to that.”

That’s the way the conversation ended. Porter would touch the ball and kneel down as time expired. Frantz knew even touching the ball during the game would be a thrill for Jake.

But as DeWitt approached his sideline, he suddenly became terribly dissatisfied with that arrangement.

“The spirit of God just hit me, and the voice of the Lord said to me, ‘No, that’s not good enough,'” DeWitt said.

So DeWitt called a timeout and returned to inform Frantz of what he wanted to happen. DeWitt said Jake would do more than touch the ball. He would score a touchdown.

At first, Frantz objected. Waverly had played a good game, and Frantz didn’t want to spoil his opponent’s shutout. But DeWitt insisted.

“The shutout is not important,” DeWitt told Frantz. “There’s something bigger here.”

Each coach instructed his team what to do. Frantz told his quarterback to give Jake the ball. DeWitt told his defense not to lay a hand on Jake.

Play resumed, with Jake seeing his first action of the season. The quarterback handed him the ball, and the two lines parted. Jake stood there at first, not knowing what to do. His teammates pointed toward the end zone, where Jake galloped 49 yards for a touchdown.

The hometown Northwest fans were delighted.

“They went nuts,” Frantz said. “The crowd was going crazy. Honestly, everybody had forgotten about the game.”

Frantz couldn’t be happier with the outcome. So his team got beat by 36 points. That seems pretty inconsequential in light of what Frantz was able to do for a boy who means a lot to him.

“He’s a pretty special kid,” Frantz said. “He rewards us daily just by being around us. He does so much for everybody around us, just by being himself. He makes everybody’s day. Bottom line, you like to reward the kids who work hard. He works the hardest to his ability.”

The story has been all over the national media — SportsCenter, Fox News, the Today Show and NBC Nightly News, just to name a few. Frantz had no idea Jake’s touchdown would create such a ruckus.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know if it would be in the local newspaper, because it wasn’t done for that,” Frantz said. “It was done for Jake.”

But the frenzy isn’t surprising. It’s a heartwarming tale about a boy who gives so much, and yet asks for so little. It’s a great illustration of sportsmanship, kindness and compassion, and a reminder that even in a highly competitive environment, there’s still time to be human.

And for DeWitt, he’s grateful God gave him the opportunity to touch forever the life of someone like Jake.

“I know that God just used us as a tool,” DeWitt said. “I really knew and understood that it was a moment ordained by God to happen.”
Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BP Sports at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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