A dream came true on Friday night at Northview High School as Forest Hills Central senior Clay Udell not only suited up for the Rangers, but scored a touchdown on the first play of the game.
"I'm happy and excited," smiled Udell, who has Down Syndrome.
"A little bird might have put a word in my ear," laughed Forest Hills Central football coach, Tim Rogers, "Clay said he had seen something like this on YouTube."
"I saw people with Down Syndrome on YouTube and the quarterback gets the ball to the person with Down Syndrome and goes for the touchdown," Udell explained.
And that's when Coach Rogers and his staff met to discuss what it would look like to have Udell suit up with the team.
"It was great timing to do it against Northview," Rogers said, "[Head coach Trip] Gallery is someone I trust and someone who cares about Clay Udell."
Gallery, who used to coach at Forest Hills Central, is also close with Clay and jumped at the opportunity to make his dream come true.
"Coach Rogers talked to me ahead of time," Gallery said, "he talked to me about the idea and I didn't hesitate. I mean, the bottom line is this is educational athletics, we're here to build relationships with kids."
Anyone who has been around Forest Hills Central athletics over the past ten years knows who Clay Udell is, a proud supporter of the school and the programs.
"He's been around a long time and around our football program since he was in middle school," explained Rogers, "we thought for his senior year he should get an opportunity to pad up and do something like that."
Rogers kept the secret from Clay until Wednesday.
"On Wednesday, Coach Rogers wanted me to bring my brother's helmet to his office," Clay said, "he says 'does the helmet fit you?' 'Yes,'" continued Udell.
And that's when Rogers asked Udell to suit up with the team on Friday night and score a touchdown for the Rangers.
"The play that I did was 28 stretch," Udell said.
Forest Hills Central senior Clay Udell has Down Syndrome but made one of the best plays of the season scoring on this run at the start of Friday night’s game against Northview! 👀🔥— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) October 17, 2020
And Clay was practicing the play a lot ahead of Friday night.
"From Wednesday until Friday night, there was nothing else on his mind other than 28 stretch," laughed his dad and Forest Hills Central athletic director, Clark Udell.
And after the touchdown, Udell paid tribute to former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow with a celebration that he said he practiced all week.
"I don't think we really knew how little sleep he got on Thursday night until he told us on Friday," his father laughed, "we went to bed and assumed he got a full nights sleep but, you know, it's a big game."
After scoring, Udell found the FOX 1`7 camera for a celebration.
"My favorite part was seeing the FOX 17 video camera next to the guys, I held the ball up to the camera," he said.
Coach Rogers made sure Clay knew to protect the ball while he ran towards the endzone.
"It was beyond my wildest dreams," Rogers added, "he took the ball and ran, I told him to take care of the ball and he did that."
And the Udell family it couldn't have consisted of two better coaches than Tim Rogers and Trip Gallery of Northview to make this happen.
"Trip always interacted with Clay and always had a place for him," Clark Udell said about the former FHC coach, "so to see those two guys do that, it meant a lot to us. To have two coaches invest in our kids and go above and beyond was great."
As for Clay's mother, Lisa Udell, she says tears started flowing as soon as the public address announcer began talking about him.
"Something he has wanted to do his whole life was be in a regular-ed game," she explained, "He told me the morning before he went to school, 'mom, you're going to cry,' and I said, 'I'm not going to cry,' but they were just tears of joy, because so many have invested in his life."