• Georgia high school football player with cerebral palsy inspiring other teams

    By: Nicole Emmett

    Updated:

    FAYETTE COUNTY, Ga. - Victory was the last thing on Benji Rutland's mind after the game between his Sandy Creek High School Patriots and the Hampton Hornets.

    When the buzzer sounded Friday night, he went over to his mother, who says she saw the look of awe and excitement in his eyes.

    “Did you see number 62? Did you see him? He’s the epitome of no excuses,” Heather Trompke says her 16-year-old son asked. “He told me, ‘I want to go shake his hand.’”

    Heather Trompke can hardly explain the rest without becoming overcome with pride, emotion and happiness about what followed.

    Devon Berry, a senior at Hampton High School, is a stellar athlete, playing football, basketball and wrestling, Trompke said. She said he is a great student, and has a relationship with his faith that inspires her.

    He has cerebral palsy, but that doesn’t hold him back.

    “He’s the real deal,” Trompke said.

    When Benji, a junior at Sandy Creek High School, introduced himself to Berry, barely anyone noticed. That moment, only captured by a photograph and Trompke’s well-written recollection posted to Facebook the next morning, is now gaining national attention.

    “He just told Devon, ‘You inspire me. I wanted to come meet you and shake your hand’,” Trompke said.

    The following morning, when Trompke says she would typically recap the game and her son’s accomplishments as kicker for the three time state champion Patriots, she was moved to mention Berry, and his achievements.

    Her post has already been shared thousands of times, and the teens have since started talking almost daily.

    “They were just texting last night, making plans for when they will hang out soon,” Trompke said.

    While she’s proud of her son for his humility in recognizing another player during what could have been a moment to celebrate with his team, she says the real hero and inspiration is her son’s newfound friend.

    “This is Devon’s story,” she said. “He’d never say that, though. He just wants his message to be shared.”

    His message—with the help of positive thinking and action, anything is possible.  

    Trompke said she was floored by his wisdom and contagious spirit.  

    “I could have sat on that field and listened to Devon talk for hours,” she said. “He really needs to be recognized.”

    On Wednesday, Channel 2's Berndt Petersen visited Hampton High School and talked to Berry about playing in the game last week.

    "It's an honor, man," Berry said. "People with my disability---it's me being a testimony for God and being a leader for people who don't have the chance to do what I'm doing.  I'm doing something that you don't usually see."

    His coach is amazed by how hard he works.

    "There isn't anything he doesn't think he can do," his coach said. " He brings that attitude out here every day."

    Berry is also a member of the high school wrestling team, which has landed him a college scholarship at St. Cloud University in Minnesota. 

    He credits his work ethic, his mom and his faith.

    "You know what?  God is awesome," Berry said. "With God, all things are possible."

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