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Politics and Government

Syracuse high school football player with Down syndrome, team honored for hard work, inclusion

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Brandon Pearson takes over the gavel and sits in Common Council President Helen Hudson's chair.

The Nottingham High School Junior Varsity Football team in Syracuse was honored by the city council for fully embracing one of their teammates who has Down syndrome. Brandon Pearson, 16, was recognized for his hard work and dedication to the team.

Pearson loves to play sports. His mother, Brandiss Pearson, said what he likes about football is his friends. He also plays basketball, track and field and throws shot put and discus.

“He just loves being a part of a team," Pearson said. 'He loves the comradery that comes from the boys at Nottingham. The big push was that I saw the boys showing up for Brandon in a way I thought was amazing, in spite of adversities. The city, the summer was pretty hard for boys their age and I saw them still being compassionate and patient. I don’t even think they realize that they were making such an impact.”

Brandiss reached out across social media and made a compilation video of local officials, TV personalities and even professional football players like former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Keith O'Neil, congratulating and thanking the team for their support of Brandon.  

"This is my super bowl ring," O'Neil showed off in the video. "I just want to show you and say keep up the good work, I'm really proud of you guys, keep on going."

Councilor Joe Driscoll said he felt the council should also officially commend Brandon and the team. After passing a resolution, councilors held a pizza party for the players, coaches and family members.

“Often, we tend to do the news stories about the horrible things that happen in the school district and blast that from the rooftops," Driscoll said. "When great things happen, I think we have to be equally loud and passionate.”

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media
WRVO Public Media
The Nottingham High School JV Football team at the Syracuse Common Council.

Brandon’s football coach Marty Clanton, said the team helped Brandon out a lot. Brandon suited up and played on the field, with teammates showing him where to stand and be in position.

“He did really well," Clanton said. "He worked hard. He lifted weights with us. He did everything we did. There was no difference. He was treated just like the rest of the football players.”

Clanton was also recognized by Councilor Khalid Bey as being an unsung hero; someone who has impacted many kids and a big reason why Brandon was on the team. Brandon, his teammates and family were also hosted by the Buffalo Bills, where they got to watch one of their games from a club box.