When Dylan Palacios was 3 years old, he could walk only by using a walker. On Saturday, the 8-year-old scored his very first touchdown – with a little help from his friends.
His big score came during the game pitting Dylan’s team, the Central Ravens, against the Hoover Youth Patriots at Central High School’s west campus football stadium. But it took a bit of planning, and some collusion by the opposing team.
When Irvin Marquez, a Central Ravens coach, learned that Dylan has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while the child’s brain is under development, he decided to help arrange for Dylan to score his first touchdown.
“I noticed just from his movement something wrong with him neuro-wise, so I asked his dad if he has muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy and his answer was ‘Yeah, as a matter of fact, he has cerebral palsy,’ ” said Marquez, who is a neuro-respiratory therapist at Community Regional Medical Center.
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Soon after, Marquez thought about asking the Hoover Youth Patriots to let Dylan score a touchdown in the last game of the season. The other Central Ravens coaches and the Hoover Youth Patriots team agreed to the idea.
Marquez said the plan was for a Central Ravens football player to give Dylan the football, where the Hoover Youth Patriots would then pretend to try to tackle Dylan but miss, so Dylan could score.
Right before halftime, the Ravens lined up and the football was hiked to the quarterback, who handed it off to Dylan. But he was quickly tackled by a Youth Patriots player who apparently had forgotten his coach’s instructions. Before the next play, the Youth Patriots coach stepped onto the field and reminded his players, “don’t touch him.”
Meanwhile, Dylan was undeterred by the tackle. On the next play, the quarterback handed off the ball again to Dylan, who took off running. When he crossed into the end zone to score, the crowd cheered by screaming his name and his teammates congratulated him by giving him hugs and tapping on his helmet.
How did it feel to score? “Good!” he said excitedly, smiling widely.
He said later that football is “fun” and he wants to play for “a long time.”
When Marquez had earlier informed Dylan’s mother, Sylvia Salas, about the plan for Dylan to score a touchdown, she started crying. She was excited and thankful that the team was acknowledging a child with a disability.
Cerebral palsy can affect walking, breathing and cause movement disorders, Marquez said.
Dylan has been on the Ravens team for two years as a blocker. Although he has cerebral palsy and asthma, he is “a little go-getter,” Salas said. “He’s doesn’t let anything keep him down or keep him from trying to do things.”
His mother encourages him to play football in hopes of making his legs stronger. When he falls during a game or practice, Salas said, team members and coaches are always there to help him back up.
“There was a time where he couldn’t even walk and he was in a walker,” Salas said. “Now he’s out there playing football. He’s come a long way. He’s a very determined little boy that doesn’t give up.”