Michigan water boy with Down syndrome scores touchdown for high school team

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Robby Heil, a senior at Novi High School with Down syndrome, cheers along with his teammates after scoring a touchdown.
Robby Heil, a senior at Novi High School with Down syndrome, cheers along with his teammates after scoring a touchdown.

NOVI, Mich. -- A Michigan high school football team came together to surprise their water boy, who has Down syndrome, by setting him up to score a touchdown, his father and the team's head coach told ABC News.

Robby Heil, a senior at Novi High School, has held the position of "hydration manager" for the school's football team for four years, his father Chuck Heil said.

Last Friday, the team put Robby in the game and tossed him the ball. As the crowd chanted his name, Robby ran down the field and scored a touchdown.

Chuck Heil captured the moment on his video camera, while Robby's mother fell to her knees with joy as she watched from the sidelines.

Robby's mother, who is battling terminal cancer, was touched by the whole event.

"I presently have cancer and this team has just been so instrumental in helping me get him to practice while I'm at chemo and it takes a village to raise my son and this village has been really outstanding," Robby's mother told WJBK.

Chuck Heil described his son as "really outgoing" and that "all the players really love him." He said the coaches and players, including the opposing team, were in on the surprise.

"[Robby] was practicing during the week. He knew something was up," he said.

Chuck Heil said the family was incredibly happy and surprised from all of the support they have received. He noted that the opposing team even gave Robby a jersey that all the teammates had signed.

"I think the sportsmanship is just the amazing part. The other coach could have just said no," Chuck Heil said, adding that Robby was "very happy" and "smiling ear-to-ear" after the game.

Head coach Jeff Burnside, who planned the whole event, told ABC News, "Robby is just a great kid, he means a lot to the kids."

Burnside said he contacted the coach of the other team, who "was immediately all for it."

"The sportsmanship from both sides was just awesome," Burnside added. "Their coaches were in tears, our coaches were in tears, their stands also had signs with Robby's numbers up in the stands."

Burnside said that he trained Robby all week for the play, treating him as he would any other member of the team.

"I am hoping that everybody can learn from him. I have learned so much from him in the past four years," Burnside said. "I've learned more from him than I've probably taught him."