ATLEE, VA (WWBT) - An Atlee senior football player with cerebral palsy ran for an 80-yard touchdown this past Friday night.
NBC12 talked with him about the journey that led up to this moment and how the young man is realizing his dream.
"It's something I can remember from my earliest time being a part of, and it's something that in my life right now I enjoy more than anything," said Sepp Shirey.
Shirey has been a football player since 4th grade, and his dream from a young age: "Playing for Atlee, running out of the tunnel on Friday nights."
Like many players, elementary school is where the chase began, but while his peers could focus on speed, strength, and routes, Shirey had another hurdle: playing with cerebral palsy.
He says his parents were supportive of him realizing his goals, even if it took his mother a little while to be on board with football.
"She thought that tackle football and cerebral palsy might not go together so great, but actually went around to my various doctors and pediatricians and all of them cleared me to play," said Shirey.
So off he went, playing the game just like any other kid. Of course, it had its separate challenges, but he always felt like part of the team.
It wasn't until middle school when Shirey started to wonder.
"How do I look out there? Do I look weird to all these people who are watching me play?" said Shirey.
Now those feelings have passed, and he's just one of the guys again - focused on football.
"I've put that behind me. I think I've just realized that this is just me, and there's not any changing that, and I can be who I want to be, despite having cerebral palsy," said Shirey.
"I said, 'I know there may be things that you may not be physically able to do, but I think your presence here, I think a lot of guys are going to appreciate that.'" said Atlee Head Coach Matt Gray.
Shirey may not see the field as much as his teammates - he usually gets in towards the end of some games - but he brings a lot to the table, traits his fellow Raiders look to for inspiration.
"Every time I think I'm tired, every time I think I gotta take a play off, I'm exhausted, I look over at him and he's doing it all on his arms. That's crazy. He's easily the hardest worker on the team," said Atlee linebacker Hayden Moore.
At the end of the day, Shirey is a varsity high school football player. He's accomplished his dream, and maybe his journey will push others to chase theirs.
"We all have limitations. Obviously his are visual, but those are things, you talk about being inspired, you look at him, and nothing, he will not allow anything to hold him back," said Gray.
"Just brush that aside, even if you can just briefly brush it aside, and sometimes you'll make enough progress where you can really find the courage to keep pressing on and put that totally in the rear-view mirror," said Shirey.
Shirey's next goal is to go to the University of Alabama to study broadcast journalism. That school is also home to the top-ranked college football program in the country, and he hopes to be involved with that in some capacity.
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