Vince Houseman, who always seems to have a smile on his face, is the manager of the Paul Kinder Middle School Grizzlies football team. He has never let the fact that he uses a wheelchair stop him from making the most of his opportunities.
“Vince might be the most optimistic, happiest kid I’ve ever been around,” said Keith Fangman, the Grizzlies coach. “That’s why we wanted to do something special for him when we played Brittany Hill at Blue Springs High School.”
The day before the game, Fangman brought Houseman, who has spina bifida, onto the field and ran a simulated kickoff, which the excited youngster returned for a touchdown.
“The next day, we did it for real,” Fangman said, “and the smile on his face was unbelievable. He said, ‘Coach, they’re going to tackle me,’ and I told him to just go out and ‘run’ it back like he did in practice the day before.”
Watching from the sidelines were many Blue Springs High School players, including quarterback Dom Harkness and his brother, Issac, a wide receiver.
“Vince’s dad called me on Vince’s phone a week before and told me what they were going to do and asked me and Dom to come and to see if we could bring some players,” Isaac said. “We were all there. We couldn’t wait to see what the experience was like for Vince – and it was better than we could even imagine.”
Dom agreed, adding, “I’ve never seen a happier kid in my life. And we were all jumping up and down and celebrating! It was pretty amazing.”
After the opening kickoff, the ball was handed to Vince near the 30-yard line, and he barreled through the Eagles special teams unit – who made the play seem authentic as they appeared to take Vince, but somehow always seemed to come up short – for a 70-yard score.
“I scored that touchdown and all my friends from the Blue Springs football team were there to see me,” said Vince, who has attended every home and away Blue Springs varsity football game the past two seasons, spending time on the sidelines with his father, Kris.
“It was my favorite all-time football game because it was the only one I ever got to play in.”
Following Vince’s touchdown, the Eagles were allowed to score on the following kickoff, and the rest of the game continued from that point.
“When I called Shannon (Stephenson, the Eagles football coach) and told him what he wanted to do, he was on board right away,” Fangman said. “It was just one of those moments that made everyone feel good. Long after the score is forgotten, and Brittany Hill did go on to win the game, everyone is going to remember Vince’s touchdown.”
Isaac took out his cell phone and recorded the big moment and the video has since gone viral, and been featured on “Good Morning America.”
“It’s all pretty unbelievable,” his father Kris said, as Isaac and Dom played a game of catch with Vince in the family’s front yard. “He’s such a great kid to be around. He is always smiling, he never complains and he’s basically paralyzed from the waist down and is going to be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.
“But he plays video games with the guys from the Blue Springs football team and I’ll walk by his room and he’ll be laughing and talking trash with those guys and it just makes me so happy.
“He has that effect on everyone he meets. I think that’s why he has so many great friends.”