HOMER, Mich. (WOOD) — A high school football player with a motor disability in Homer got the opportunity of a lifetime and literally ran with it.
Born with cerebral palsy, Austin Pitts, a sophomore at Homer High School, has already made more than his mark and a roster spot on the junior varsity football roster.
“When he was little, watching this sport, knowing that there’s a good chance he’d never be able to play, (it) maybe just gave him that much more love and appreciation for the sport,” said Austin’s mother, Shawn Pitts. “When (the varsity coach) came to him … and asked him if he wanted to play for JV, that was a no-brainer.”
Usually, Austin Pitts is put in at wide receiver or defensive back. But in last week’s game against Jonesville, he got the nod to go in at running back near the end of the contest.
“I was really excited. I never thought I was going to be there, especially against Jonesville,” he added. “I used to go to Jonesville, so it was pretty awesome.”
He was given the handoff and all the blocking needed to go the distance.
“I was very excited that (my teammates) rallied around me and supported my touchdown with me,” Austin Pitts said.
When asked what was going through his head as he were about to cross that end zone, Austin Pitts immediately said two words with a smile on his face.
“We asked him the same question and he said it that night,” Shawn Pitts laughed. “I was just saying the whole time, ‘Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip.’ We were saying in our minds ‘Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip.’ But it was great. I couldn’t be happier.”
The scoring play was 82 yards, enough for Austin Pitts to lead the entire team in rushing that game. But everyone, including his head coach Cyrus Raymond, believes he leads in more ways than one.
“He never missed the weight room. We had 7-on-7’s in July — never missed any of those. He came out, suited up — he’s not missed a practice. He always has a smile on his face. He’s a grinder,” Raymond said.
“I took the opportunity, and I just ran with it and I really wanted to do it, so I put all of my time and effort into it. Even when I was sick, I even went to practices just to watch,” Austin Pitts explained.
It’s that heart and hustle he encourages anyone like him to put into practice.
“If you ever get the opportunity, just do it,” Austin Pitts said. “Don’t think about it. Just do it.”
“Just because society gives you a stigmatism or it says that you can’t do something, it doesn’t mean that door is shut,” Shawn Pitts added. “They should be for anybody. Anybody should have that mentality.”
Austin Pitts said he plans one day to go to college to study agricultural engineering, but not before he hits the pads next season on the varsity team.