HALTOM CITY, Texas - It was a night to remember for a high school football manager with special needs.
Thursday marked Brandon Stanley’s birthday. He’s the student manager for the Richland High School football team.
The Richland High Rebels took on the Haltom Buffalos on Thursday in Haltom City. Richland coaches decide early on they could use a fire starter. So they turned to Brandon, their team equipment manager. He played in his first high school game ever.
Brandon got the ball and took it all the way. He scored for The Rebels while his family was cheering him on.
“I knew he could run. I knew he was going to be safe, and they would take care of him,” said grandmother Juana Garcia. “But I was surprised by how well they did it. They were very protective of him, too. And he knew exactly what to do when he ran with that ball.”
Earlier during a game day ritual, Brandon and the players showed their excitement running from the main building to the field house.
Brandon has a birth condition called microcephaly, which affects brain development.
Special needs instructor Jenna Burns has seen Brandon progress from nonverbal to super expressive since becoming the team assistant.
“His speech has just taken off. He’s now speaking wants and needs,” she said. “He has to tell me every morning after a football game if they lost, if they won, how they played, who did what. As far as progress, as far as functional life progress — phenomenal.”
Coach Chuck Wells is the offensive coordinator. He gave Brandon a pep talk.
“It’s exciting for us for those kids to be a part of something that is above them. Something that’s not about them, which is hard in today’s society,” the coach said. “It’s not about us at all. It’s about Brandon.”
Brandon’s younger brother, Christian, is a free safety on the team. He pumped him up as well.
“Just to keep on running. You’re going to say. If you get the ball, just keep going. Don’t stop ‘til you get to the end zone,” Christian said.
Whatever they said, it worked. It was a phenomenal play.
Brandon's grandparents say his instructor and the district have helped Brandon progress over the last few years, and working with the football team has been great for him.