East Longmeadow High School athlete makes impact on and off the field
EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -One sophomore at East Longmeadow High School is not letting his intellectual disabilities hold him back from playing the sport he loves.
Eric Cole recalled the student section cheering for him after a highlight captured by Western Mass News, one he will never forget.
But his parents told Western Mass News that Eric has had to overcome significant challenges to get where he is today.
“While he is a 6 foot 4 292 pound kid that wears a size 17 shoe… His mental capacity is that of a five- to seven-year-old,” explained Erin Chase, Erik’s mom.
Eric is a much loved member of the school’s special needs program. Despite the obstacles, Eric wanted to follow his passion to play football.
“I heard Eric wanted to be a part of it. And I said he is definitely going to be a part of it and we will figure out everything else after,” said Michael Morrisino, teacher and East Longmeadow High School’s varsity head football coach.
Morrisino said that part of the Spartan culture is to be inclusive of everyone.
“We are one. We are a family. Eric has been a big part of us being a family this year, more than ever in the past,” he explained.
Eric told Western Mass News what it is he loves so much about the team.
“My teammates, they do high fives and stuff. They say hi Eric, how’s your day,” he said.
While Coach Morrisino said he plays a variety of positions during practice, on Friday September 16, Eric made his varsity debut on kickoff against the South Hadley Tigers.
“Eric ran down the field. He jumped over a player. And the announcer, Mr. Macarini, credited eric with the tackle,” revealed John Chase, Eric’s dad.
“I’ve been here a long time. As a player and coach. I don’t know if I ever heard then what Eric got when he got off the field that day,” Morrisino said.
“As a father, there are a lot of moments, but that is the moment of eric’s life I will always remember,” John said.
While Eric has done so much for the team, his parents shared what the team has done for him.
“No matter his size, his color of skin, no matter what we term a disability. Eric loved, he is accepted, he is respected, and he is supported,” John said.
“Knowing there are kids on this team and on this sideline that love him like that, that he is safe and living his best life,” Erin said.
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