We don’t have it all figured out here in American sports culture — but at least stories like this are becoming more common.
Austin Clark is a 4-foot-2, 135-pound freshman offensive lineman for the Hixson High Wildcats in Chattanooga, Tenn. Clark was born with Down syndrome, but he is nonetheless a full member of the Hixson offensive line.
”The biggest point they made to me was, he’s coming out here to be a high school football player, he’s not coming out here for anything special,” Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Never wanted us to do anything special for him. He’s a part of the team. He runs the sprints, he does his drills, he’s one of us.”
One of Clark’s teammates, senior running back Isaiah Robinson, took a liking to Clark when the offensive lineman showed up to lift weights at summer workouts.
”He’s been like my brother, basically,” Robinson said.
Naturally, this has been a relief for Clark’s parents, who know how desperately their son wanted was to be part of the team.
”To be able to drop him off and let him get out of the car just like everybody else and do what he’s supposed to do and come in and be part of the team means the world to us,” his mother, Twonna said.
More and more people are finding ways to use sport’s immense popularity for a greater good.
The most well-known example of this is the story of Jason McElwain — a high-functioning Autistic teenager who became an overnight sensation in 2006. McElwain was put into his team’s basketball game for just four minutes, but scored 20 points.
Since then, we’ve seen some wheelchair touchdowns . . .
We have seen a player with Down syndrome draining 3-pointers . . .
We have seen a series of variations on this basic concept of using in-game athletic competition as a utensil for altruism. It is, perhaps, the noblest characteristic of truly amateur athletics.