Crowd cheers Down syndrome teens’ touchdown at Estacada football game

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 7:57 PM PDT
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ESTACADA Ore. (KPTV) - A special moment played out during Estacada High School’s JV football game. With both teams beside him, Ryan Hunt, an Estacada student with Down syndrome, scored a touchdown, and celebrated his achievement with players from both sides.

Ryan’s Head Coach, Bryan Scott, says it was a moment for the community as much as it was for Ryan.

Ryan’s parents describe him as a social butterfly. That it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, he just wants to be a part of it. Now he is a member of the Estacada JV Football Team. On Monday, Ryan got the opportunity and scored a 70-yard touchdown.

“Well, someone tried to tackle me and I went through the end zone,” says Ryan.

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When Ryan was born with Down syndrome, his parents say they had their concerns.

Your kid is born different than the other kids. When he had a diagnosis of Down syndrome, we didn’t know what to expect, what his life would be like and there was a lot of fear and worry with that,” says his mother, Heidi.

But now he’s just another Ranger. Ryan gets to be just as much a part of the team as anyone else, taking part in drills like tackling and catching, with a little help from his mentor.

“I kind of do modified warm-ups for him, he can’t do them all,” says Nathan Hagel, Ryan’s mentor. “I don’t have to step in a lot of the time because the team will pull them to the side and show them what to do.”

“He does lots of things with me like push-ups and waving, tapping on helmets,” says Ryan.

Now, Ryan has 60 new brothers.

“There’s not a guy in that field that doesn’t have Ryan in their radar and making sure Ryan’s good to go. They’re quick when Ryan is confused on something to help them out,” says JV Head coach Bryan Scott.

But the road to get here wasn’t easy. In 2019, Ryan was in the hospital and on a ventilator for a month. The Hunt family wasn’t sure if Ryan would get better.

“There weren’t any answers. They couldn’t really give us any explanations; it was just he just doesn’t seem to be getting better was really all I ever heard,” says John Hunt, Ryan’s father.

“To see him now fully engaged in high school, fully present being part of a team, it’s amazing. I can’t even put it to words,” Says Heidi.

And his mom says he is the most popular guy at school because everywhere he goes, he’s high-fiving somebody and he’s bringing the enthusiasm for life to school.

“One of the things that I have learned is to not put limitations on him That kid surprises me all the time,” says John.

Ryan may be different, but he’s got dreams just like everyone else. He says he wants to be a police officer when he grows up and have a family of his own.