ANKENY, Iowa — It was a unique play-call, designed for a special talent.
“If you are in a crummy mood, Jack will get you feeling good,” said Ankeny High School football coach Rick Nelson.
Medical issues prevent Jack Downing, team manager and junior special education student, from playing a sport he loves. Jack said, “I have toe braces and I’ve had a couple surgeries and a shunt,” he said.
But heading into Ankeny’s final home football game of the season, Jack knew his number might get called.
Coach Nelson said, “Thursday he came out with his gear on, and he might have slept with it on. He didn’t take it off.”
When the Hawks sent Jack into the game late in the second half, he knew exactly what to do. “They made me an open gap and I just ran up the middle,” he said.
Like any great running back, Jack improvised.
“We were just going to run a stretch play, but he cut it back. He’s more an inside runner,” said Nelson.
Jack also proved elusive in the open field. He said, “After I got done jumping over that guy, I kept on running and then I had an open gap to the end zone. And everybody came out and they were just surrounding me.”
The 30-yard touchdown run ended with the perfect exclamation point. “It was a two-handed spike because I figured a one-handed spike wasn’t good enough,” said Jack.
The opposing team’s sportsmanship added to the heartwarming highlight. “I do want to thank Des Moines North for putting on a good fight,” said Jack.
The Ankeny Hawks have a history of excellence on the field, but many in the stands Friday believe Jack’s touchdown was one of the most memorable moments they have been a part of.
“I hope that kids look and see how much that meant to Jack and they understand that they get to go out there and play every snap, I mean just how important and how precious that is to them,” said Nelson.
It is a feeling Jack said he will always hold onto. “The feeling of scoring was awesome. Everybody crowded me in the end zone.”
Jack’s favorite football team is the Iowa State Cyclones. He says the touchdown made him feel like Cyclone running back David Montgomery.