Jeremy Wynn has never thrown a touchdown pass, made a key block, a game-saving tackle or crowd-pleasing field goal.
But the young man with the heart of a champion is every bit as much a part of the Blue Springs High School football program as any of the players.
Wynn, 33, was a student at Blue Springs High School when coach Kelly Donohoe took over a program that he would lead to four state championships and two runner-up appearances. Wynn, who is confined to a wheelchair, suffers from general dystonia (that is not limited to a single part of the body, but affects multiple muscle groups throughout the body).
But he and his father Steve are on the sidelines of every Wildcats football game, and have been since 2004, when the young Wildcats coach visited Steve and his wife Teri when they both happened to be dining at the same restaurant in Blue Springs.
“Kelly knew Jeremy from lunch duty, and they really became friends,” said Steve, who coaches Jeremy’s Exceptionals softball team every Monday night in May and June (see related story). “One night, we’re at the same restaurant as Coach Donohoe and he comes over to our table and says that he wants to have Jeremy on our sidelines.
“He said it was as much for his kids, to have them be inspired by Jeremy, as it was for Jeremy. I know it was a Godsend for our family because it was so difficult getting Jeremy into the stands with his wheelchair. Teri and I thank God every day for Coach Donohoe and what he has done for Jeremy and our family. There is no way we could ever thank him or tell him what he means to us.”
Donohoe brought several members of the Wildcats football team to the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy Monday night to watch Jeremy play in the last game of the season for his Exceptionals team.
“We love Jeremy and his family,” Donohoe said. “It wouldn’t be the same without Steve and Jeremy on the sidelines with our kids. I remember the night I talked with them at a restaurant. We had won the state championship in 2003 and I just told them I wanted Jeremy to be a part of our team. And he has been on the sidelines for every game since that night.”
Hanging in the Wildcats football locker room is a montage of Wynn playing with the Exceptionals.
“The guys love those photos of Jeremy,” Donohoe said, grinning. “Especially the one of him diving out of his wheelchair and sliding into home plate.”
Wynn ends every game with a home run, in which he gingerly dives out his wheelchair onto home plate, which father giving the “safe” sign.
“I remember the first time he did it,” Teri said, savoring the special memory. “A lot of the fans, and other Exceptionals players, didn’t know he was going to do it. They saw him on the ground and were worried about him, but then his dad signaled ‘safe’ and Jeremy had the biggest smile on his face. That’s how we end every game now.”
A young man who witnessed Wynn’s dramatic slide home was all-world Wildcats offensive line star Beau Stephens, who already has a handful of Division I scholarship offers even though he is just going to be a junior this fall.
“We love Jeremy and we love it that Coach Donohoe brought us here tonight,” Stephens said. “I think sometimes we take for granted the God-given things we have, and when you see Jeremy, and how much he loves playing softball and how much his mom and dad love it, it just makes you feel good.
“This is their ‘Friday Night Under the Lights’ moment, and everybody should be able to experience that because there’s nothing quite like it.”