Homecoming at HSU is nothing short of exciting, but for one
senior, this homecoming weekend was nothing short of a dream come true.
Austin Rinard, senior exercise science major from Big Spring,
has always dreamt of running through a tunnel onto the field as part of a
football team – a dream that never seemed possible because of a genetic heart condition.
This summer, Rinard took an outdoor education class where he
shared his dream and the condition which stood in his way. Two classmates, also HSU football players, heard
Rinard’s story and wanted to see what they could do to help.
Raustin Harris, senior exercise science major form La
Vernia, and Gabriel Garner, senior exercise science major from Weatherford,
knew immediately that they had the power to do something.
“This was something small that we could do that might be big
for him,” said Garner. “I’ve known him
for a while and we wanted to help.”
The students went straight to Jesse Burleson, HSU’s head
football coach, and explained the situation.
“He was very open and approved it right away,” said Harris.
Tuesday before the big game, Harris and Garner told Rinard
the great news.
“I was speechless,” said Rinard, “and when I told my mom, I
was so excited, I had to calm down and repeat myself.”
Not only did Burleson endorse this small act of kindness, he
brought the gift up a notch by allowing Rinard to wear the #45 jersey and
participate with the captains during the coin toss.
“We were pleased to make this happen. I was proud of our
guys (Raustin and Gabe) for reaching out and coming up with this idea on their
own,” said Burleson. “I believe that it shows the character that our players
possess and display to others.”
Rinard was a welcomed addition to the team as the Cowboys
went on to a 19-12 homecoming win and, though he never played a down, the
victory on the scoreboard could not fully express the triumph of the day.