An 8-year-old boy with Down syndrome stole the show at a high school football game last night in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. First grader Gabe White has roamed the sidelines of the high school’s freshman team as their honorary captain this fall while watching his older brother play.

For the last game of the season, Coach Mark Apfel gave Gabe an oversized football jersey, helmet, and shoulder pads and told him to suit up…

Gabe and Coach

The game ended with a loss for the Hodags to the visiting Mosinee High School, but the Rhinelander players stuck around. There was a “5th quarter” still to be played.

As Rhinelander walked back onto the field, the Mosinee players couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then they noticed the 8-year-old boy on the field in a helmet and pads, and their coach told them, “Run the kickoff and don’t tackle him!”

The boys from Mosinee realized what was going on and did exactly what their coach asked them to. The weary group returned to the field and lined up for the kickoff, leaping through the air with missed tackles as they chased an 8-year-old boy to the end zone…

Gabe’s moment on the gridiron with his high school heroes is especially noteworthy for me because he’s my little brother. It’s not often I get to write a story about someone I know, much less someone in my family.

What those kids from Mosinee did was a spectacular display of sportsmanship. They didn’t have to drag themselves back onto that field, much less put the effort they did into running that last play. It was a great moment for Gabe, those fans, and everyone on the field, and now it’s a great moment for the rest of us.