Boro football gives back at 12th Man Banquet

Categories:  Sports    News
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 at 2:14 AM
Boro football gives back at 12th Man Banquet by Hannah Webster

Four young individuals who each participated in the Edinboro University football team’s 12th man program, beamed from ear to ear on Friday, Dec. 9 at the end-of-season 12th man banquet.

This new program was designed by junior student-athlete Ryan Stratton to include individuals who may be experiencing intellectual, physical, or medical limitations as a part of the football team.

Each "12th Man" would meet with the team Friday night before the game and be presented with a T-shirt and football, signed by the entire team. This opportunity would allow them to get to know each player a bit more personally and feel a part of the team, even off the sidelines.

On the Saturday of each game, the individual would be allowed to experience pregame warm-ups and a view of the game itself from the sidelines. Some chose to accompany the team inside the locker room during halftime.

The individuals who participated in the program were: Nathan Englund, Matthew Serafin, Aaron Wagner, Tristan Dennis, Tony Mele, and Sarah Lupo.

Participant Nathan Englund said that being next to the team on the sidelines felt great. He said it was a great feeling being on the sidelines watching the game up close.  He liked to encourage the team by saying, “Play smart. Play strong.”  

Englund made friends with quarterback, Jake Sisson, and tight end, Stratton, throughout his experience. Englund called Sission’s plays “impeccable” and mentioned that Edinboro is his favorite place. He explained that this was an amazing experience and he will come back next year to be a part of the program again.

He wants the team to know that he appreciates the gifts he received from them and to look forward to a good, strong, and tough upcoming season.

Diana Englund, Nathan’s mother, commented that the program made her son feel big, accepted, included, special, and important. She applauded the fact that the players did a good job of welcoming her son as a part of the team.

“I have a special connection with adults with special intellectual disabilities, so it makes me feel good that more is being done for them to include them in life and to help them be a part of regular life. This is what it’s all about. It’s not specifically that it was football. It wouldn’t have mattered what it was it was just a wonderful opportunity to have him be included in something special,” said Diana Englund.

Aaron Wagner, another 12th man said that becoming friends with the players and being a part of the team this season felt good. He was able to watch the team win and give players high-fives as they left the field.

His mother, Michelle Wagner, appreciated the team including her son as a part of the team and taking him under their wing.

“It was an amazing experience to be down there with him. It was so much different being on the field and these guys were so nice to him,” said Michelle Wagner.

Sarah Lupo was able to participate as a 12th man cheerleader for some of the Edinboro home games. She said that “it was pretty awesome” being able to practice some tricks with the team and stand on top of the pyramid. She enjoyed dancing with the team and talking to the boys on the sidelines about football.

Lupo was glad to meet fellow cheerleaders Colton Flynn and Delaynee Wilcox.  Lupo became very good friends with Wilcox this season through the 12th man program and will hold onto the memories they shared.

“All of our 12th men this year carried these traits: passion, courage, a fighter, a lover, a team player, hard worker, tough, and the list could go on. But I know that the best team player and our biggest fan on Saturdays was our 12th man,” said Stratton, introducing the purpose for this season’s 12th man program.

Stratton explained that spending time with 12th man Nathan over the summer helped God place the idea of a 12th man program in his heart.

“I didn’t like how football players were stereotyped as a typical tough jock that didn’t give back,” said Stratton. He explained that it became a way for the football team to give back to the community.

Stratton emphasized the fact that while each 12th man felt blessed through this experience, it also truly made an impact on the player’s lives as well.

“It humbles you in a way because we don’t realize how special it is to have the gift to play football, because not everyone has that ability,” said Stratton.

Vitaliy Gurman, a freshman outside linebacker, explained that the experience was eye opening and helped him become a better person. He was inspired by the energy the 12th men have for the game, which he learned came from a mutual passion for football. “This was a really good experience, I really enjoyed it,” said Gurman. He continued, “They are an inspiration for us and we play for them.”

Isaiah Brown, a freshman wide receiver, mentioned that this program helped him put his life into perspective. He explained that the individuals come excited and make the players want to get up and play well, even if they were having a bad day. “It was nice to see other people’s experiences. It humbles me. I hope we can do it again next year and that it keeps going on,” said Brown.

Coach Justin Lustig commented on how the program affected the team. “It was a great experience that I think was great for our players to see some young men and women who were going through adversity, and I think it allowed our guys to see how lucky they have it.”

He also mentioned that the 12th man program has taught the team how to act like a family and branch out in all aspects of life. “I think when you give back to the community and when you give back to people and care about people more than yourself then that brings the whole team together,” said Lustig.

Stratton would not only like to see the football team continue this over the years, but “start a movement” and see all the teams involved and even expand to other schools outside of Edinboro. He would like to see a big banquet for all of the 12th men from various teams and various years to come together in order to create a community and family atmosphere.

“I can’t wait to see this program get bigger and bigger and better and better as we progress for your senior year,” said Lustig to Stratton at the banquet. 

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Tags: sports, 12th man

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