Michigan’s Novi High School senior Robby Heil is the official “hydration manager” for his high school football team. He has Down syndrome, but any player or coach on the team would tell you he’s been an integral part of the Wildcat family for the last three and a half years.
On September 16, Robby got to play a different role for Friday night lights.
Against South Lyon East High School, coach put him in as running back. Robby was hoping to score his first touchdown for his mom.
Robby’s mom Debbie is terminally ill with bone cancer. She had no idea he was suiting up to play in the game.
Robby didn’t waste a minute living his dream of scoring a Wildcat touchdown. The ball was snapped to him and just like that he ran it more than 30 yards into the end zone.
From the sidelines, Debbie watched through tears before falling to her knees.
“I dropped to the ground because I was so emotional when I saw him make that touchdown,” Debbie says. “I’ve always been proud of him being the water boy, or as people call him, the ‘hydration manager,’ but this was incredible, he’s Rudy tonight, he’s Rudy.”
Debbie refers to Rudy Ruettiger, the main character in the movie Rudy, which tells the story of a college student who dreams of walking on to the football team at University of Notre Dame. Like Robby, Rudy had his own disability to overcome. When he finally gets his shot at running a play, Rudy sacks the quarterback at the end of the game, helping the Fighting Irish to victory.
Just like in the movie, the entire football stadium cheered Robby on in his shining moment, chanting “Robby, Robby” from the stands.
Robby’s coach says it’s a moment they will remember forever.
And to cap off Robby’s best football season yet, he was crowned Novi High School’s Homecoming King: