Autistic Football Player Goes the Distance

By: Jillian Risberg Email
By: Jillian Risberg Email

Despite adversity and discouragement, an autistic football player from right here at home is making strides no one thought possible.

"Go to the locker room, change and go outside and practice,” says Zack Hamilton, a student at Hamilton Middle School.

Doctors said Zack would never play organized sports.

"That he would never ride a bike, you know because of his low muscle tone," says Zack's mom, Tonya Moyer of Parkersburg. "And his physical therapist when he was eight, when he was seven or eight, decided this would maybe be a good thing."

Football keeps him in the inner circle.

"I don't think that kids in the school look at him as an outsider anymore,” says Mike Kupfner, assistant football coach at Hamilton. “He's just a brother, 'cause I mean it's a brotherhood here for us -- everything we do; it's family."

For her son to make this kind of progress is priceless for Moyer.

"These guys have done so much for him since he came here,” she says. “I could just never thank them all enough, and seeing him excel at something that he actually enjoys is just for him it’s the best thing in the world."

It's a new experience for his coaches.

"It’s been nothing but, I mean nothing but laughs,” Kupfner says. “I mean, he's a super strong kid; I get put in headlocks and get nuggies all the time. “But I mean, it's eye-opening and it's really enjoyable."

High school is the next big milestone.

"Making that transition is the next big thing in his life and that's gonna be hard,” Moyer says.

Staying with this group of kids would be a good thing.

And continuing to play football at the high school, Kupfner says.

He adds, "I hope that the high school coaches share the same compassion and stuff that we do down here.”

Playing is Zack’s passion.

"Make touchdown all day,” he says.

Football isn't just helping the 13-year-old socially, but also educationally. This year he is starting to speak and learning to read at Hamilton.

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