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Muscular dystrophy doesn't stop Keegan Erbst from being part of the team

COMMENTARY— At Sequoyah Middle School in Edmond, a rough football season has been redeemed by some eighth-graders who have redefined what it takes to be a teammate by remembering what it means to be a friend.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 24, 2012

They didn't involve their parents. They didn't clear it with the principal. They knew what they wanted to do.

“Coach, we want to take this jersey and take it to Keegan,” they told their coach, Brandan Rosa, “and make him feel a part of the team.”

“Of course,” he told them. “Go ahead.”

The next day, they went into science class to spring their surprise on Keegan. Lucas had the home jersey, Colton had the away jersey.

“And Parker was just there smilin' away,” Colton said.

So was Keegan.

The boys wanted him to wear his jersey on game days. Come to games. Be on the sidelines.

They wanted him to be part of the team.

“Keegan's not one to put himself in the limelight,” his dad said. “He doesn't like to be the center of attention in any way, shape or form.”

The local arm of the Muscular Dystrophy Association asked him to be a spokesman. He didn't want to do it.

But being on the football team?

Keegan was in.

It wasn't long before everyone else at Sequoyah joined in, too. The principal presented Keegan with a laminated certificate proclaiming him an honorary team captain. The coach gave Keegan sideline passes for himself and his dad. The counselor recognized Lucas, Colton and Parker for what they'd done for Keegan. The Erbst family even sent letters to the boys' parents to try and thank them for how well they'd raised their sons.

The boys say all of that's been nice, but they don't think what they did for Keegan was anything special.

“Just trying to be good friends,” Parker said.

“Just trying to set good examples,” Colton said.

“Make him feel part of the team,” Lucas said.

Keegan has definitely felt a part. He not only breaks the huddle but also goes to mid-field for the coin toss, prays with his teammates, then huddles with them at halftime and after the games.

Of course, there are times when he wishes he could be on the field, running like Lucas or hitting like Colton or jumping like Parker. But regardless of that, he feels like a part of this team.

He feels like a Cougar.

“It's been pretty cool,” Keegan said his buddies making him part of the team. “I think it's just awesome that they decided to do that for me.”

Thursday night is Sequoyah's final game of the season. While it's been a tough year — the Cougars finally won their first game last week — you wouldn't know it talking to Lucas, Colton and Parker.

Colton recounts a story about their game a week ago when Keegan's name was mentioned during the team introductions by the PA announcer.

“It was pretty cool,” Colton said, smiling.

None of the boys plan on playing football as freshmen next year at Edmond North. Baseball is their primary sport, and all of three of them expects to focus on it.

“We'll get him a jersey,” Parker said, talking with an authority that makes you believe him.

Colton said, “It's definitely not a one-year thing. It's definitely going to be continued.”

Keegan has always been a part of their team.

And he always will be.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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