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The 'toughest' touchdown run Atlee football player with cerebral palsy gets a thrill -- an 80-yard touchdown

Richmond Times-Dispatch - 10/29/2017

An Atlee High School football player with cerebral palsy got the opportunity of a lifetime Friday night when he scored an 80-yard touchdown in Atlee's game against Varina.

Sepp Shirey, who was born with the movement disorder, is a dedicated member of the Raiders football team. Cerebral palsy limits his ability to walk, and Sepp often uses crutches to help.

On Friday night, coach Matt Gray put Sepp in the game.

It wasn't Sepp's first appearance. He had played a few snaps earlier this year against Armstrong, and a few last year. Gray had asked that defenders simply put their hands on him, two-hand touch, instead of tackling him.

This time, Sepp's father, Hunter, was on the sideline, and he told Gray, no, let them tackle Sepp. Gray alerted the referees that Sepp was taking the field, and they relayed it to Varina coach Stu Brown.

Gray called for a handoff to Sepp up the middle. But Varina's defenders opted not to tackle him.

Instead, they cheered him on as Sepp ran, with a ball in his hands instead of crutches, 80 yards down the field. They motivated him and ran with him toward the end zone.

Sepp crashed into the end zone, falling into the arms of a teammate.

"I had no expectations," Gray said. "This kid carried the ball for a touchdown."

While Varina won the game 63-21, Gray credited the Blue Devils and their coach for making Atlee's senior night special for Sepp.

"We learned more from him than what anyone thought we gave him," Brown said. "The definition of physical and mental toughness is Sepp marching 80 yards.

"It's the toughest 80-yard run I've ever witnessed. I'll tell you that."

Football has been a part of Sepp's life for a while. He attended a camp with Gray when Gray was an assistant at Randolph-Macon College. When Gray was hired at Atlee last year, Sepp was on the team. Those who know him say Sepp shatters any expectation you might have about what a kid with cerebral palsy can do.

On the football team, Sepp is like "a coach in a helmet," Gray said. He's smart and attentive, always giving advice to his teammates.

"It was pretty awesome," Gray said. "It just kind of worked out."

ekolenich@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6109Twitter: @EricKolenichRTD

 
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