Former student who lives with special needs scores big on the gridiron at Independence High School

Former student scoring special touchdown teaches lesson bigger than football

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Tristan McCullum has become an important part of the football team at Independence High School. McCullum is a former student who attended Independence and lives with special needs.

According to his coaches, McCullum helps the team out in various ways. Wesley Strayer, a coach on the football team and extension program teacher at Independence has gotten to know McCullum on the gridiron and in the classroom.

“Having Tristan around us just helps build that character, helps build that comradery. It’s invaluable what he provides when he’s around us,” said Strayer in an interview with WBTV Friday night.

During Independence’s game Friday night senior wide receiver Trevor Bryan caught a deep pass for a touchdown. One of the first people Bryan went to celebrate with was McCullum.

“He brings a lot to the team. You know we love him being out here. You know he just brings the energy. Just seeing him makes our day better,” said Bryan.

McCullum got a chance to suit up for a game for the first time Friday night. Prior to kickoff, the team ran a special play for McCullum to give him a chance to score a touchdown under the Friday night lights.

As the young man ran the ball down the field, his teammates ran alongside him. Both the Independence Patriots and their opponents, the Garinger Wildcats, surrounded McCullum in the end zone to celebrate his accomplishment.

“We wanted to be able to just give him a moment because he’s definitely deserved it. He’s put in the work just like all these other kids have,” said Strayer.

McCullum’s mother was watching from the sidelines as her son made the big run. She was able to congratulate him as soon as he walked off the field.

“A very, very special moment - very special for him to be a part of a team and be a part of their family,” said Teresa McCullum.

Independence won the game Friday night in a blowout over Garinger.

Copyright 2019 WBTV. All rights reserved.