Ladd Mabrey: Football-loving Okmulgee boy inspires family, friends and coaches

OKMULGEE, Okla. - An Okmulgee boy continues to captivate his friends, family and community.

Thirteen-year-old Ladd Mabrey is just like any other child his age.

"He's fun," said his mother, Mollye Mabrey-Furch. "He likes to be a part of anything going on."

Ladd, a member of the Okmulgee Middle School eighth grade football team, joined the team last year, despite having down syndrome.

"I would consider him to be a very high-functioning child with down syndrome," Mabrey-Furch said.

His teammates consider him no different from themselves.

"He's like a little brother to me," said Gregory Jones. "He's just like one of us on the field."

Ladd's teammates and coaches found a way to make sure the energetic player contributes to the team as much as possible.

Throughout the season, coach Scott Patton has put Ladd in to the game, allowing him to score the team's final touchdown.

Going into their final game, Ladd amassed 12 points, crossing the goal line twice.

"He's No. 17, but he's No. 1 in our hearts," said Patton.

The head coach finds Ladd's work on the field to be amazing, but he's more encouraged by what it teaches the rest of the team.

"We want them to understand that this is a gift from god and every boy doesn't get it," he said.

The team's final home game was played Tuesday night at Okmulgee's Harmon Field.

As the last few seconds ticked from the game clock and Okmulgee leading 18-6, Patton called on Ladd to run the final play.

Ladd took the handoff from his quarterback and followed his blockers for the team's final score and his final touchdown of the season.

All 35 members of his team met him in the end zone and hoisted him on their shoulders.

It was a moment that brought tears to both his mother's and coach's eyes.

"It just brings pride," said Mabrey-Furch. "It brings warmth to my heart."

Patton finished the game saying, "It makes me cry. It makes me cry."

It was a moment the adults will not forget, nor will Ladd's teammates and friends.

"He inspires me everyday when I see him at school," Jones said.

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