|LaChute Mustang Football Player Noah VanVooren after scoring first touchdown|
Noah VanVooren, is a Senior at Little Chute High School in Wisconsin, who has served as the Mustang football team's Team Manage Water Boy for years.
While VanVooren has Down Syndrome, the team treated him as just one of the guys on the field. Senior fullback Chet Pereenboom noted VanVooren's positive attitude and enthusiasm which he shared with the team. So the Mustang team wanted to do something special for VanVooren.
Little Chute Football Coach Mike Ryczkowski asked Noah if he want to play in the final home game. Ryczkowski thought that VanVooren would be nervous but the Team Manager turned player confidently strode onto the field wearing number 14. Noah was made the honorary team captain for the Senior Night game and helped lead the team on the field.
With 1.2 seconds left on the clock and Little Chute leading 57-0 over Clintonville High, the crowd shouted out "Noah, Noah" and VanVooren was sent in for the last play. Mustang Quarterback Sam Merrifield handed off to VanVooren. The Clintonville Truckers team let number 14 through, and VanVooren ran 35 years for the touchdown as he was surrounded by his teammates.
Although the score did not count for the record books, as both teams and the officials facilitated VanVooren's touchdown, one would never know it based on the enthusiastic reaction from the Little Chute crowd. VanVooren was swarmed by fans. After scoring his first TD, VanVooren exclaimed: "I feel great. I scored a touchdown. It was great." Later Noah enthusiastically sang the school song in the postgame team huddle.
Noah VanVooren's father remarked: He was born 18 years ago and the doctors told us he would never be able to walk, talk or do anything. And then to see him 18 years later, it’s amazing." VanVooren's father also expressed gratitude to the Little Chute community who had backed up and loved his son.
The idea for a touchdown came from a group of Mustang Football Seniors who approached an Assistant Coach. The plan then got the approval of the opposing Clintonville football team as well as the officials.
|LaChute (WI) Mustang Football Team, [front row] no. 14 Noah VanVooren|
Sports can chronicle achievements but they also mold and reveal character. This Wisconsin Water-Boy's TD embodies the finest virtues of character building through sports. It echoes the triumph and sportsmanship depicted in the film Rudy (1993)
According to Little Chute High Principal Dan Valentyn, the school prides itself on being a place that is small enough to maintain a family-type atmosphere and give a personal focus to assist those who may be struggling personally or academically. The sportsmanship shown by the Mustangs for an underdog who had long supported the team and inspired them was noteworthy and commendable.