As football teams across Western North Carolina were getting ready for Day 1 of the 2018 football season, on the field of Owen High school, the Warhorses were busy making a young boy's dreams come true.
The players invited Landon Cooper out on the field before their big game against Enka. During warm-ups, the players taught Landon routes and even let him score.
Coach Nathan Padgett adopted the 9-year-old into the team when a heartfelt letter was sent to his office. It was a letter from Landon, it read:
"Dear Nathan Padgett,
My name is Landon Cooper. I go to Swannanoa Valley Montessori School. My favorite sport is football. I know you’re a football coach and I was wondering if you would ask your players if they would like to play football with me."
When Padgett read the handwritten note, he couldn't help but get emotional.
"I kind of got a little teary-eyed reading the letter. It just struck home because they were doing an assignment in his class, and he could have picked anyone to write a letter to. LeBron James or Cam Newton. And he picked us! That was really special for us and for me to get something like that," Padgett said.
The coach and players surprised Landon not only with a day on the practice field teaching him the fundamentals of football but also surprised him Warhorses gear.
"They are so nice. I was so happy," Landon said.
As Landon's father, Derek, watched his son interact and play with the athletes on the field Friday evening, he said he couldn't be more proud of his son. There was a time when doctors told Derek that Landon might never walk.
"When his mother was pregnant with him, he had a stroke in the womb at 7 months. It caused the left side of his brain to not form so well. Doctors told me be prepared for the worst," Derek said.
Landon has spent most of his life in physical therapy, working to get full mobility on the left side of his body. Dererk said he has learned what it means to persevere and stay positive through his son.
"As a father, you couldn’t be more proud of your child. Everything he’s been through. I couldn't have asked for a better child," Derek said.
Landon's grandfather David said he is thankful to Padgett and the players, who have welcomed Landon with open arms.
"They went above and beyond. It’s been great," said David.
Landon has battled through years of adversity, but now he is moving from unsteady steps to charging out on the field.
Padgett said he is the true definition of what it means to be a Warhorse.