Autistic Teen Scores Dream Touchdown

By Ben Russell
|  Thursday, Nov 14, 2013  |  Updated 9:24 AM CDT
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A football player who spends most of the games on the sidelines, had a big game on Monday when he scored a touchdown.

Ben Russell, NBC 5 News

A football player who spends most of the games on the sidelines, had a big game on Monday when he scored a touchdown.

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A McKinney teenager scored the touchdown of the season at Monday night's football game.

Fourteen-year-old Braden Bingham looks like he was born to play football, weighing 259 pounds and standing at six feet, three and a half inches tall.

"He's his own zip code," said Clay Bingham of his son.

Braden Bingham is an eighth grade student with autism,  who laces up size 17 cleats as nose tackle for the Dowell Middle School Lions, in the McKinney Independent School District.

He wears the number 78 on his jersey - a number he's worn on the field at every game this season.

"I've just been amazed with the boys all season, with how much they've supported Braden," said Rita Bingham, Braden's mother about her son's experience during his first season on the football team. "And the coaches also. But I was shocked about that."

"We want to teach these kids not just the love of the game of football but just the love of their fellow people, their fellow kids," said Leonard Evans Coach Matthew Guevara about his view of sportsmanship and how it played a role in helping Braden Bingham score his first touchdown.

During the third quarter of Monday's game with Leonard Evans Middle School leading Dowell by the score of 24 to 7, a player for Leonard Evans ran the ball up the middle and fumbled.

"And Braden picked it up! And then everyone was cheering him on to, 'Run! Run! Run!'," Rita Bingham said.

"And then the whole crowd is kinda like a Charlie Brown crowd running down the field," Clay Bingham said. "All 21 players running down the field."

Video of the play shows Braden Bingham running with the football, surrounded by a sea of teammates and opponents, emerging from the crowd into the end zone.

"And then he put his arms up like he had won the gold medal at the very end," said Rita Bingham. "It was great."

"So it was just one of those magic moments, you know," Clay Bingham said.

Leonard Evans Coach Guevara told NBC 5 he was not concerned about allowing his opponents to bring the score closer, possibly putting a chance at a victory in jeopardy.

"If we could be a part of just helping someone, you know, have a great moment then our guys were totally in," Guevara said. "They were like, 'We don't care if it was a tiebreaker. We don't care if it made us lose.' We were just like, 'Give him the shot to be the star of the moment.' It was really cool."

The Bingham family credits Larry Jagours, who is a member of the special education department at Dowell Middle School, with helping Braden develop his skills and confidence on the football field this season.

Rita Bingham said Jagours has dedicated hours to teaching her son  technique and rules.

Since he started playing football, Braden Bingham has also developed his speech and his interpersonal skills, Clay Bingham told NBC 5.

For other parents of autistic children, who aren't sure how to help their kids become engaged with their environment, Clay Bingham has a suggestion.

"Find their gift and don't think that there's limits," Bingham told NBC 5.

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