High school football team makes boy’s seemingly impossible dream a reality

Local News

Six-year-old Benton Cullen loves football. But suffering a stroke old meant that he would never set foot on a football field... at least not as a player.

EARLHAM — 6-year-old Benton Cullen loves football like no other, but he’ll never play it. But that didn’t stop his Earlham Cardinals from giving him a night he’ll never forget.

At seven months old, Benton started having infantile spasms, a rare and severe form of seizure that very few babies suffer from. The seizures eventually went away, but there were devastating lasting effects— he was diagnosed with brain damage and hemispheric paralysis on his left side.

Years of physical therapy have helped Benton, but he still walks with a slight limp and will never be able to play the game he loves for the team he loves most. The last night of the regular season, however, his Cardinals took their senior night a step farther: making Benton an honorary captain.

There he was— a six-year-old walking hand-in-hand with his heroes, with a jersey to match and a mom who got to see her little boy do something she never thought could happen.

“I hugged random senior boys because it’s their night. It’s senior night. It’s supposed to be about them,” said an emotional Ashley Cullen. “It’s not all going to be about Benton, but they’re letting a six-year-old first grader be a part of senior night.”

On top of that, the whole team signed a football and gave it to him.

Photo: Eric Knifong

And to top it all off, his Cardinals took the district championship and punched their ticket to the playoffs. Benton may never be able to play football, but now he can say he knows what it’s like to be a part of it all. And he couldn’t be happier.

“It’s amazing because I’ve dreamed about it,” Benton said. “I never got to be on the sideline during a game.”

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