Put Me In, Coach
The good that comes out of Texas: George Bush, Friday Night Lights and now, coach Kevin Atkinson. The Dallas Morning News reports:
Keller Senior with Down Syndrome Fulfills Dream
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
By TIM MacMAHON / The Dallas Morning News
The home crowd at Keller ISD Stadium rose to its feet as soon as Lyndon LaPlante jogged onto the field during the fourth quarter Friday night.
The fans went wild during LaPlante’s 99-yard touchdown run, which ended with him being mobbed in the end zone by his Keller teammates.
Never mind that the pre-arranged play didn’t count. It fulfilled a dream for LaPlante, a senior who has . . .
Update: Sept 9, 2008, Watch the video clip here.
. . .Down syndrome. He maximized the moment by flashing a Heismanesque stiff arm as he crossed the goal line and hamming it up on the sideline after play resumed in Keller’s 35-21 win over Richland High Schools.
“Man, it was awesome!” said LaPlante, who was still cradling the game ball when his mother, Genni, woke him up Saturday morning. “Everybody said, ‘Lyndon! Lyndon! Lyndon!’ I was crying with chills.”
Keller coach Kevin Atkinson had planned for three years to get LaPlante a carry his senior season. He hoped an opposing coach would agree to allow LaPlante to take a handoff and run over to the sideline to hug his coach.
Atkinson mentioned the idea to Richland coach Gene Wier, who suggested LaPlante should score. They agreed it would happen on Keller’s first offensive play of the fourth quarter and notified the officiating crew before the game.
Perhaps it was fate that a Richland punt pinned Keller on its 1-yard line, giving LaPlante as much glory as possible.
Moments earlier, LaPlante had called his father, Don, to the guardrail behind the Keller bench. “I’m goin’ in! I’m goin’ in!” he said.
LaPlante has been a part of Keller’s program since his freshman year, when he served as the freshman team’s manager. Atkinson, smitten by LaPlante’s upbeat personality, promoted him to student assistant head coach the next season. LaPlante specializes in motivational speeches, which usually focus on how much he loves Keller and his teammates.
“His heart is as big as Texas,” Atkinson said.
LaPlante’s unofficial duties also include greeting college coaches on campus to recruit. He’ll introduce himself, title and all, and chat away.
“I’ve played y’all on PlayStation,” LaPlante has told a few coaches, “and y’all aren’t very good.”
Atkinson allowed LaPlante to pick a position before his sophomore season. LaPlante chose to be a running back. He dresses out and goes through noncontact drills with the backs at the beginning of every practice. He’s been known to then retreat to Atkinson’s golf cart for a nap.
LaPlante, No. 1 on the roster, has suited up for every varsity game the last two seasons. He gets two carries during pregame drills every week. He usually removes his shoulder pads once the game starts and concentrates on taking pictures.
With some help from his mother, LaPlante has made a photo slideshow for the team at the end of each season. One ended with a mug shot of him accompanied by four words:
“Put me in, Coach.”
Thank you (foot)notes:
Hat tip to reader Ron Newton.