Lessons From a Middle School Football Team

December 1st, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

A young team makes a play for kindness.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Just as the NFL investigates reports that Miami Dolphins coaches asked guard Richie Incognito to “toughen up” teammate Jonathan Martin and that Incognito’s profane, racist messages were simply part of locker room culture, another football story has emerged that could teach professional players something about sportsmanship.

The Eagles football team at Olivet Middle School in Olivet, Mich., plotted for weeks to run a play without their coaches’ knowledge, a CBS Evening News segment reported, all to set up a great moment for a special needs boy.

Sheridan Hedrick, a player on the team, would easily have scored a touchdown, but he instead fell on the 1-yard line, footage showed. That was when the team took the opportunity to make their next play – the “Keith Special.” The team immediately hiked the ball and handed it to Keith Orr, a boy with behavioral and learning disabilities, who ran forward as his teammates shielded him from the oncoming defense.

The touchdown, as Keith put it, was “awesome.” But more awesome was the play’s effect on the community, said Keith’s mother, Carrie Orr, to local TV station WILX. “Yes I’m excited and happy that he made a touchdown, but what have these boys showed this community?” she asked. “They’ve got his back. And he knows it.”

Even boys who wouldn’t have stood up for the boy learned something from the “Keith Special.” Wide receiver Justice Miller told CBS Evening News’ Steve Hartman that he wouldn’t have thought to make the play on his own. “I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone, and trying to make everyone’s day, in everyone’s life.”

We salute the Olivet Eagles for their awesome play. Thanks for teaching us a lesson that everyone could use right now.