'There wasn't a dry eye': N.B. teen with autism scores first touchdown
A New Brunswick teen with autism is the talk of his high school after he scored his first touchdown during a football game last weekend.
Tom Lafford has been a member of the football team at Tantramar Regional High School in Sackville for three years. His dream of running onto the field with his football family recently became a reality at a game between the Tantramar Titans and Harrison Trimble Trojans.
In the fourth quarter of Saturday’s match, the 16-year-old ran his first touchdown with his brother on the field, his parents on the sidelines, and a roaring crowd cheering him on.
“He was smiling and he was laughing and he was going around telling people he got in and asking if they saw him,” says Tom’s brother, Jeffrey Lafford.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including myself,” says Ben Brown, assistant coach for the Tantramar Titans. “We saw it in the practice play the day before, and we knew it was coming at some point, but to see it happen and see the excitement in the crowd, it was incredible.”
Mark Teed, coach of the Harrison Trimble Trojans, says his players didn’t hesitate to let Tom score near the start of the fourth quarter.
“As soon as he got out there he had a big smile, seeing his brother hand the ball off to him and lead the way to the end zone was a real special moment,” says Teed. “I’ve been in football a long time and things like that, stories like that don’t happen every day.”
It was also a first for Jeffrey, who had never played alongside one of his siblings before. As his own high school football career draws to a close, he says he’s proud to see how far his brother has come since joining the team.
“He came to all the practices but he never got in gear, and same as last year in Grade 10, but then this year he wanted to get in gear, he wanted to dress for games and he was talking about trying to get into the game,” says Jeffrey.
While Tom’s touchdown may have been the picture perfect ending to the regular season, he’s not hanging up his helmet and jersey just yet. Now he’s practising as the post-season begins, and the Titans eye another provincial championship.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke