By: John Kampf
Phillip Colucci has lived his young life with the belief he can do anything.
A seventh-grader from Chardon Middle School who has cerebral palsy, Phillip proved it to everyone else at Nick Carter Stadium at Eastlake North High School on Sept. 27.
Taking a handoff from quarterback Jacob Snow, Colucci scored a 1-yard touchdown run for his first career score in the second quarter of Chardon’s 36-0 win over Willowick.
“I scored a touchdown,” the soft-spoken teenager said through a beaming smile, clutching tight in his hands the game ball the team presented him after the game. “It was kind of exciting.”
Not just for Phillip, but also for his teammates, who wildly celebrated the touchdown.
For his coaches, who met him as he trotted off the field, and hugged him.
For the Chardon fans, including Phillip’s mother who recorded the touchdown from the top row of the bleachers.
And even for those in attendance.
“That,” said one of the men on the chain crew, “is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”
Phillip always wanted to play football. But it wasn’t until he pulled a fast one on his mother, Sandra, this past spring.
“He came home and told me he was going to play football,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, nice. With friends?’ And he said, ‘I signed up for seventh-grade football.’”
Phillip’s proud mother admitted her heart skipped a beat when she heard what her son had done.
Her mind darted back to when she gave birth to Phillip. Sandra and her husband Michael were “devastated” when they found out at 12 months that their son had cerebral palsy — defined by CerebralPalsy.org as “a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while the child’s brain is under development.”
But after telling their son “no” for a number of years, and seeing him gain progress in wrestling and weight-lifting over a seven-year span, the Coluccis gave their son the OK to play football for the Chardon Hilltoppers’ seventh-grade team this season.