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This Might Be the Most Joyful Kickoff Return Ever Caught on Video


"...he makes everybody happier."

Image source: WAOW-TV

Gabe White is 8-years-old and has Down syndrome.

He's also full of energy, has a great laugh, and seems to instantly warm the hearts of those he's around.

Image source: WAOW-TV Image source: WAOW-TV

Gabe also loves football — and Coach Mark Apfel of Wisconsin's Rhinelander High School tapped Gabe to "manage" the freshman squad.

"Just have him on the sidelines, he makes everybody happier," Apfel told WAOW-TV.

Gabe's older brother Owen is on the football team and knows what a difference Gabe can make. "[When] we're losing and it's kind of a rough game, he'll go up to a player, give him a hug, just changes your mood," Owen told WAOW.

Gabe's mother Cindy has loved watching her son latch on to the team. "The guys have just loved it, they let him go out and flip the coin for the coin toss and he calls himself the captain," she told WAOW.

Then Coach Apfel had an idea.

On Thursday night Rhinelander lost its last home game of the season against Mosinee High School — but moods were quickly lifted after the final whistle blew.

The teams took the field for one big post-game play — a kickoff to Rhinelander...with Gabe, in full Hodag green, on the receiving end.

Image source: WAOW-TV Image source: WAOW-TV

Owen White knocked down the kickoff and motioned for Gabe to pick up the ball then directed him down the field.

"When he finally figured it out and finally took off, it was so cute to watch and the other team was just awesome the way they were diving at him and falling," Cindy White told WAOW.

Image source: WAOW-TV Image source: WAOW-TV

With much bigger Mosinee players unable to keep up, splayed all over the grass in his wake, Gabe reached the end zone to huge cheers and chants of "Gabe! Gabe! Gabe!"

Here's the big run:

"I ran a touchdown and made a score!" Gabe told WAOW later.

The players also signed a football and gave it to Gabe so he could always remember his special touchdown.

"When they went to go lift him up at the end...that was the big minute for us and even some of our coaches were tearing up," Apfel told WJFW-TV, "and that's a weird thing because I haven't seen that side of them."

Check it all out below:

WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

This story has been updated.

(H/T: Huffington Post)

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