At first glance, Ike Ditzenberger might not seem like an athlete who would ever excel on a football field.
But what he did in a Sept. 24 game against Lake Stevens — and what he accomplished with the help of teammates and opposing players alike — ended up being more memorable than most sporting moments any of us will ever see.
Ditzenberger, who has Down Syndrome, entered in the waning seconds of a game the visiting Vikings led 35-0. After lining up in the backfield, Ditzenberger took a handoff and started around left end to the sideline. He cut back to the middle of the field, and ended up crossing the goal line for a 51-yard touchdown on the final play of the game.
Surrounded by his teammates, Ditzenberger danced in the end zone and then ran to the sideline, beaming joyfully. It was a heartwarming moment, and one made possible by some terrific young men at Lake Stevens High School who understood how much they could give Ike — and the rest of us, through the wonders of the internet — with their selfless decision to surrender their shutout so he could score.
And for Ditzenberger, a finalist for The Herald’s Man of the Year in Sports for 2010, that was just the beginning. The video was seen by thousands of viewers around the world in the ensuing weeks, making him a celebrity. The video clip was shown repeatedly on local and network television programs, and on other websites.
On Oct. 24, he and his teammates were honored during a Seattle Seahawks game against Arizona at Qwest Field.
And on Dec. 5, Ditzenberger received something he will cherish, like his memories of that special night, for the rest of his life — his first Snohomish varsity football letter.