Orchard View football player with autism gets first touchdown

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MUSKEGON, Mich.--  It's a display of sportsmanship caught on camera that grabbed a lot of attention over the weekend. Two football teams came together Friday to give a teen with autism a night on the field he'll never forget.

Fletcher Payne, also known as Pork Chop, is a student at Fruitport High School, but plays on the Orchard View High School football team. He's known for his big heart, killer dance moves and giant hugs, but now he has a touchdown under his belt.

"He's a special child," said his father, Fletcher Payne Sr. "He's not aggressive like the other kids. He's lovable and I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world."

Friday night, Ludington head coach Charlie Gunsell called a timeout, asking Orchard View Coach Joe Tanis to put Fletcher on the field.

"He was like '65 dash to Fletcher'" said Payne Sr. "I was like okay he got him a play in."

With his teammates by his side, Fletcher got the ball and headed to the end zone.

"I was so excited," said teammate Jayden Day. "I was ten times more excited than I would be for scoring a touchdown for myself. It was a great feeling. Everybody sprinted out on the field. It was a great experience, we all loved it."

A son's first touchdown and a proud moment for his dad who watched from the sidelines.

"I was so excited and so happy for him," said Payne Sr. "I like how the Ludington coaches let him make the touchdown. What made it so special was when all of the kids huddled around him. That brought tears to my eyes."

"They said his face in the end zone was priceless, he was so excited," said head coach Joe Tanis. "He came off the field saying 'touchdown!'"

It was a special moment for both teams, even more important for the guy they call Pork Chop.

"It might not seem as important to us, but to him it's probably just something great," said teammate Julian Crawford. "He doesn't really get to get out there that much, but to see him happy makes the team happy."

Coach Tanis tells FOX 17 he lets every opposing team's coach know before the games they want to try and get Fletcher in at some point during the game if they can, but wasn't expecting the Ludington coach to call a time out asking to put him in, let alone have him score a touchdown.


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