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Utah football team rallies around teen with cerebral palsy

  • Brett
One seventh grade football team in Pleasant Grove, Utah are helping a local teen with cerebral palsy realize his life-long dream of playing football (Credit:

One seventh grade football team in Pleasant Grove, Utah are helping a local teen with cerebral palsy realize his life-long dream of playing football (Credit:

For some, sports are an escape from life and a way to be entertained. Most of the time, sports are purely entertainment but every once in a while sports remind us how big of an impact they can have on a person’s life. For some, such as Dakota Parker, being involved in sports is a life long dream that may never be obtained.

Fortunately, Dakota’s school mates in Pleasant Grove, Utah are helping him to realize his dream of playing football. Dakota has cerebral palsy, which forces him to be unable to safely play football. Despite his love for sports and all the stats that come along with them, Dakota thought he would never be able to play football due to his cerebral palsy. That was until September 1st when his middle school’s football coach asked him to be a captain of the team.

Dakota never misses a practice and runs stopwatch for drills. He also reviews film with the team and makes sure to show up to each game in his uniform, even though it takes two people to get his pads on and can be physically exhausting.

Dakota’s mother, Tanalyn says her son’s involvement on the team has provided a boost to his self-esteem.

“I think it’s helped boost his self-esteem. He’s at the age now where he’s noticing more and more the differences with him, but there’s a glow about him. He’s been in heaven. It’s been the greatest thing ever,” Parker said. “(The coaches) have been awesome with him and treated him like the other boys, completely accepted him. Dakota doesn’t stop smiling with those coaches.”

While just being a part of the team may have been enough for Parker, on Saturday he was able to score his first touchdown during a game against the Westlake Thunder.

KSL’s Celeste Tholen Rosenlof explains how Parker was able to find his was into the end zone on Saturday.

Westlake was down 50 points. As the Vikings’ coach put a uniformed Dakota in the game for a victory kneel to end the game, the Westlake coach, Brian Walker, shouted out, “Let him score! We won’t touch him,” Dakota’s mother, Tanalyn Parker said.

After a timeout and huddle to determine the teams’ plays, Dakota ran the ball to the end zone, scoring his first touchdown. Tanalyn Parker said there were few dry eyes on the field as Dakota made his way across the field.

“I just thought, ‘What kind of man, what kind of a coach would do that when they’re behind, when they have not even scored yet and it’s the last minute or two of the game?’ ” Tanalyn Parker said.

For a 13-year old boy who would rather watch ESPN than cartoons, Saturday was the culmination of a life-long dream and proves once again how sports can be much more than just a form of entertainment.

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