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‘Gentle Giant’ Football Player ‘Saved the Day’ When Special Needs Boy Had ‘Full-Blown Panic Attack’ at Stadium, Mom Says

On Friday, the Iowa State football program hosted Victory Day for children with special needs. Player Oluwafunto Akinshilo, right, took the time to help Colt Cosper, left, and the boy's mother captured the sweet moment.
Eric Hanson KCCI / Facebook screen shot

The following article, 'Gentle Giant' Football Player 'Saved the Day' When Special Needs Boy Had 'Full-Blown Panic Attack' at Stadium, Mom Says, was first published on Flag And Cross.

The mother of a special-needs boy shared a heartwarming story last week about her son’s encounter with a college football team.

“I don’t even know where to begin, my heart is so full,” Mandy Moore Cosper wrote in an Friday Facebook post. “I’m still in awe over so many things from tonight.”

Cosper’s son, Colt, had been invited to Victory Day at Iowa State University, a special event in which the school’s football team showers love and attention on special-needs children.

“They try on helmets, sprint out of the tunnel and score a touchdown,” Eric Hanson of KCCI-TV wrote in a Facebook post of his own. “The kids LOVE it. Pure joy.”

But Colt was having a hard day. In fact, every day is a challenge for Colt, who has Doose Syndrome –“a rare and intractable form of epilepsy” that causes him to have up to 50 seizures a day, according to the Little Al Foundation website.

“This year was such a different experience from last year,” Mandy Cosper wrote in her post. “Colt’s body is weaker…he tires out easily… he gets very overwhelmed with loud noise and big crowds…He gets overstimulated very easily…He is not as social and keeps more to himself.

“Colt wasn’t feeling great tonight, he was sore from his new feeding tube that was placed at the hospital earlier today, and was exhausted outside in the heat.

“Colt lost his balance, and fell down the cement stairs coming out of the locker room. His arms and legs were scraped and bleeding. He was sobbing from the pain and embarrassment of the fall.

“He had a full-blown panic attack when he was announced on the field. I carried him out with his head buried in me, his body shaking and his teeth sinking into my shoulder. The noise from the band and announcer was too much, he was crying and begging me to take him away from the noise.”

“I thought we were going to have to leave,” Mandy Cosper wrote.

That’s when the ISU football team and coach Matt Campbell stepped in and saved the day.

They paired Colt with “our favorite player,” offensive lineman Oluwafunto “Funto” Akinshilo, a red-shirting offensive lineman who is from Lagos, Nigeria.

Colt quickly calmed down and joined in on the fun, his mother said.

“He was a gentle giant, and couldn’t be more perfect for Colt,” the boy’s mother wrote. “He was so patient and kind, with the biggest heart. He was trying to make the night perfect for Colt and our family.”

Akinshilo gave Colt and his sister Presley ISU hats. He gave Colt a football, as well as his own football gloves.

“Colt literally thinks they are magic,” Mandy wrote, regarding the gloves.

“When being around so many people and all of the loud noise on the field became too much for Colt, Funto hung out with Colt up in the stands where it was quieter.

“He even took us to a quiet space and showed Colt and PJ a big statue of Jack Trice. He played with my wild one (Presley) and included her in all of the fun.

“It’s not always easy and comfortable being around special kids like Colt,” she wrote of Akinshilo. “He was an absolute natural, and didn’t seem a bit phased by some of Colt’s behaviors.”

Mandy Cosper shared a photo of one special moment between Colt and Akinshilo, in which the large athlete is gently dabbing at the little boy’s mouth with the hem of Colt’s football jersey.

KCCI’s Eric Hanson was one of many who have been touched by the scene. “That’s more than a chin wipe,” he wrote. “It’s compassion within minutes of meeting a child.”

Hanson shared the note Colt’s mother had sent him, explaining the significance of the moment.

“Mandy Cosper sent it to me and writes, ‘Hi! I saw you at ISU Victory Day and wanted to share a picture of my son with football player Funto Akinshilo,” she told Hanson. “Colt has a neurological disorder that causes him to drool a lot. I was getting ready to take a picture of the two of them, and Funto stopped me, because he noticed Colt had some drool on his chin.

“He wiped his chin, and it was one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever experienced in my life.’”

Hanson said he believes the ISU football players love Victory Day as much as their young visitors — and they possibly love it even more. “This picture is proof,” he wrote.

Mandy Cosper said she wishes more college teams would hold events like ISU’s Victory Day.

“It is not only meaningful to the children with special needs, but it’s an experience that will help the players walk away with a new outlook and understanding of children with unique needs,” she wrote.

“I was crying the entire time watching the joy shared between the football players and kids on the field. It was absolute magic.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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