Rivals come together for special student

admin's picture

HUGHES SPRINGS – Football in East Texas means the world to many people. Rival games, whether they have been played for years or are just beginning to play again will stop towns dead in their tracks as fans pour into the stadium.

The Hughes Springs- Daingerfield game, which picked back up in 2016 after several years of the teams not playing each other, is no different. However, for one special night, the rival took on a whole new meaning as the teams came together for one special student.

Seventeen year old Justin Myrick is a senior at Hughes Springs High School. Justin was injured by a horse when he was four years old. Justin’s mother, Betty recalls the difficulties of not knowing the extent of Justin’s injuries until he was in second grade.

“His dad and I were truck drivers, so we moved around a lot,” says Myrick. “We moved to Weatherford when he (Justin) was in second grade. That is when they did testing and found the extent of his disability.”

When Justin was in seventh grade, they settled in Hughes Springs, where many students stepped in to help mentor Justin and help make him feel a part.

“Dylan Moore, Austin Calcote, and Hayden Smith all became mentors for Justin,” says Myrick, adding “not because they were told to, but simply because they were good kids.”

According to Myrick, Moore and Smith would help encourage Justin to finish the work he needed to get done. They would also take him to movies and include him in other activities.

Noticing that Justin wanted to be included, Myrick went to the school and asked what could be done to that end. Realizing most of Justin’s friends were involved in sports, Myrick went to Athletic Director and Head Coach Chris Edwards. During Justin’s freshman and sophomore years, it was suggested that he run a flag at home games. Each time the Mustangs would score during a home game, Justin would run the flag from one end of the field to the other. During his junior year, Coach Edwards made Justin the varsity team’s equipment manager. Then, for Justin’s senior year, Coach Edwards began planning something special.

When asked about Justin, Coach Edwards said, “Double J is one of those kids that brightens your day every day. His attitude is contagious. His smile lights up any room. He loves sports and I just wanted to give him an opportunity that he has always wanted.”

According to Myrick, it was after last season that Edwards approached her about doing a special play for Justin, for him to be able to actually play.

“Justin has always supported his friends and his team. From carrying the flag after scores, to chasing after foul balls during baseball, Justin has always been on the sideline, cheering his team on,” said Myrick. “Coach asked me if I would be ok with it if he could work it out for Justin to have a special play that he would get to run one time. Of course, I said yes.”

Myrick explained the stipulations of the play: it would have to occur at a Hughes Springs home game, and the opposing team would have to be on board with it, as Justin could not be hit.

“Everyone on the field has to know and be involved, because if he were to get hit and have another head injury, there is no telling what could happen,” said Myrick.

Coach Edwards approached the Mustang’s first opponent for 2017- the Daingerfield Tigers. When asked if he would be ok with allowing Justin’s special play to occur at the beginning of their season opening matchup, Athletic Director Coach Mike Waldie agreed.

“I want everyone to know that Daingerfield was just as big a part of this,” said Coach Edwards, “They had to be willing to step up and agree to this. This is bigger than just football. This is about life, and coming together for a special kid. A big thank you to Coach Waldie for helping make this happen.”

As game day rolled around, Justin’s special day began with helping welcome elementary students to school, and continued with being given one of the spirit sticks by the Hughes Springs Varsity cheerleaders. As game time closed in, Justin could be found on the field, in uniform for the first time ever, warming up with “his team.” His senior teammates gave him the opportunity to carry the senior hammer onto the field as he led the team onto the field prior to kickoff.

Following the Tigers’ opening kickoff, Justin took the field to chants of “Dou-ble J, Dou-ble J” as fans of all ages waited for his moment to shine. The 6’9” senior took the handoff, rumbling over 30 yards for the touchdown.

Although Justin’s play took no time off of the clock and had no effect on the outcome of the game, the effects it had on those present will last a long time.

“I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the school making this happen for Justin,” said Myrick. “And it was not only Hughes Springs. People in Daingerfield do not know Justin, yet they were willing to take time out of their rival game to make sure Justin had his opportunity to play football. It just means so much that the two communities will come together to make this happen for someone who otherwise would not have the opportunity.”

As for Justin, he couldn’t have been happier running up and down the fence following his play. He was giving high fives and signing autographs.

Justin summed up his play in three words- “It was awesome.”

And yes, it was awesome to see two rival teams take a few minutes out of their game to make such a special moment happen for a special young man.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)