It's a relationship fostered with the help of the nonprofit Team Impact, which pairs kids with serious illnesses with a local college sports team.
Head Coach Casey Goff said that bringing Ian on the field gives the boy an experience he has never had.
Ian lives with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine. His limitations are largely physical. He requires a wheelchair or braces to get around. His mind is sharp and his social skills are fine tuned. He is, for all intents and purposes, a typical 8-year-old, in extenuating circumstances.
Matthew Bruno, a senior and an offensive lineman, said Ian inspires the team to play for something bigger than themselves.
Ian is a full-fledged member of the Lions. He is required at practice and at games and he helps review game films. But his biggest responsibility is being the team's chief spirit officer.
The relationship is mutual. The Lions thrive on Ian's winning spirit. And Ian is relishing in the privilege of having 100 older, cooler brothers to learn from and lean on.
Jacob Ray Todd, Ian's dad, said the members of the team are great young men who shake Ian's hand, fist bump him, and accept him.
Ian is guaranteed a spot on the team for two years. But if the practice session we attended is any indication, Ian is irreplaceable.
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