The Moose Lake (Minn.) football team is one of its state’s best, rattling off 11 sectional titles in the last 17 years.
What’s more remarkable than that prolonged run of success? The team’s holder, Danny Lilya, is in a wheelchair. Minnesota’s WCCO tells Lilya’s inspirational story.
Lilya was born with a broken back, caused by a birth defect. He had a spinal reconstructive surgery at six months old and was in a body cast until he was one.
At the end of last season, a teammate mentioned to Lilya that he should be the holder.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” Lilya told WCCO. “Talked to the coach about it, and he liked the idea.”
The team’s coach carved out a spot for the sophomore. The spirit of inclusion runs throughout the program, according to the coach.
“Part of Rebel football has always been including everybody,” said coach Dave Louzek. “And we’ve had a lot of kids as a part of our program that have been what other places would consider non-athletes. We really try and create a family atmosphere here.”
While the Rebels do go for two after touchdowns much of the time, Lilya gets his chances from time to time.
And when he does?
“When you finally do get in, it’s just the best feeling in the world,” he said, “being able to finally be part of a team that accepts you and likes you for who you are.”
A round of applause for Lilya, as well as for the Moose Lake coaches who found a spot for him. A great story all around.