OREM, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Emmanuel Gualatuna started suffering seizures when he was two years old. Some lasted for several minutes. The seizures stopped when he was eight, but Emmnauel was left developmentally delayed.
“His brain does not function at 100 percent,” said Emannuel’s father, Edwin. “Maybe his brain is at 70 percent, but he’s learning.”
Emmanuel always had a passion for football, especially when he watched his older brother play at Orem High.
“He used to come up to me and say can we play football outside?” Emmanuel’s brother, Edwin Junior said. “Can we do anything related to football? Anything to do with football, he just loved doing it with me. He liked coming to my games or going to BYU games.”
So when Emmanuel wanted to play on the Orem High sophomore team, his father did not have any reservations.
“No, I was not scared,” Edwin said. “I just wanted my son to try what he likes, especially with his disability, I want him to try all he wants.”
Playing team sports can be extremely beneficial for special education students, helping self-esteem and confidence.
“I very much love for my students to be involved in the high school extra curricular activities,” said Emmanuel’s teacher, Marie Glahn. “So, to have those friendships from the team, he loves it. And just walking down the halls, ‘Emmanuel! Emmanuel!’ It just gives him friends and confidence.”
Emmanuel has been embraced by everyone at Orem HIgh, even by the varsity football team.
“Yeah, we love him, absolutely,” said varsity safety Shawn Anderson. “We loving having him at practice or the games. He’s really fun to be around.”
But despite all of his hard work, dedication and showing up to practice everyday, Emmanuel had never played in a game. But Thursday night before Orem took on Mountain View, something special happened.
Emmanuel took a handoff, and with Mountain View’s cooperation, took it all way down the sideline for a touchdown. The entire team rushed out on the field to congratulate Emmanuel, who said it was, “cool.”
“It was amazing,” Anderson said. “I was just so happy for him so he could have that experience. Even though he is watching most of the time, it was really cool to see him out on the field.”
“Then to see all the football players surround him,” added Glahn. “Oh my gosh, my heart just melts.”
Edwin hopes his son can be an inspiration to other kids in special education programs around the state.
“The message for everybody else is anything is possible,” he said. “My son is working so hard, and I think that’s paid off because we have to keep trying and trying.”