Kevin Hasenbein crossed the goal line, spiked the football, and pumped his fist. His Morristown (N.J.) teammates swarmed him, slapping his hands and throwing their arms up in the air.
It was Hasenbein’s first touchdown. Though it didn’t count on the scoreboard, it gave the Colonials’ fans plenty of reason to celebrate.
Hasenbein, a senior with Down syndrome, joined the Morristown football team this fall. At first, he was just tagging along after his brother, junior Eric Hasenbein. He went to practice, weight-lifting sessionsand group dinners, and wears a game-day jersey on the sideline just like his teammates.
But a couple of weeks ago, Kevin Hasenbein had told his mother, Christine Hasenbein, he felt more like an assistant coach because he hadn’t gotten a chance to play. He asked head coach John Power for equipment just like the rest of the guys.
Power set Hasenbein up with pads, and came up with a plan to get him into a game. Hasenbein worked on running the ball at practice, with teammates encouraging him to keep going and to sprint instead of jog.
With a little help from the Delbarton coaching staff and players, Hasenbein was able to take the football from quarterback Colin Falk, rush around the right end, and go 80 yards past the defense for a touchdown before the game started on Saturday afternoon.
“He understood where he was going to line up, and just told him, ‘Run, don’t stop,’” Power said. “They were fired up. They love it. He brings an excitement and a joy to practice. It’s great to have him out there every day.”
Hasenbein got back to the sideline and told teammate David Lopez he was going to score seven more. He didn’t take his helmet off the rest of the game, waiting for another opportunity to get on the field.