Peter Dezell, coach of Chicago’s “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” varsity football team, gave a 12 year old boy named Patrick Nicholson a chance. Patrick was born with down syndrome. Patrick’s older brother was on the football team and when Patrick would ride with his mom to pick up and drop off his brother, Patrick would wonder why he couldn’t be involved, too.
Coach Dezell gave Patrick an extra jersey one day and asked him to help him out as an assistant coach. Patrick flourished as part of the team and two years later, he has come out of his quiet shell, has stopped running away and hiding behind trees when someone talked to him, and is now running a tight ship on the football field. Patrick is very good at what he does.
The coach was up against some parents who said that Patrick would be a distraction. The coach stood his ground. For a man to stand up to scrutiny and to push back against public opinion for something he knows in his heart is right, Coach Peter Dezell is my hero. And so is Patrick.
Special thanks to the CBS Evening News alerting me to this story.