BEVERLY, Mass. – November 16th, 2013 will forever be a historic day for the Endicott football program that celebrated their second New England Football Conference (NEFC) Championship in four years. But only a few hours before the final whistle blew on the field at Endicott Stadium and the NEFC trophy was hoisted by the Gulls, a relationship with a special recruit and future member of the Endicott football program was just beginning.
Ipswich High School student Vince Skelton, 15, stepped into the Hospitality Suite on the second floor of the Post Center that overlooked the newly renovated North Field along with several other recruits and learned what Endicott football was all about, where the program was going, and how he could be a part of the team's future success. The only different between Vince and the other young men in the room is that Vince has cerebral palsy, a congenital disease that attacks physical development mainly in the areas of body movement.
His disability will keep him from putting on a helmet and pads and getting onto the gridiron but through the program's relationship with Team Impact, Vince will be as much of a presence on the Endicott football team as any other coach or player. Team Impact, which has joined the effort of raising the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses, works with team-based support networks to match a child with an organization and help cultivate the relationship so that meaningful bonds are formed.
"I had heard of Team Impact and all of the great things they had done and continue to do for kids around the country," said Endicott sophomore receiver Alec Matys (Woburn, Mass.). "When I found out about this great opportunity to work with them I was extremely excited. We wanted Vince to be at a game before the season was over so my idea was to have him come and be part of the recruiting process. This way he would hear what our program is all about, he could feel like a real football recruit, and it gave us the chance to meet an awesome kid."
Endicott won the NEFC Championship that day 24-0 over Salve Regina and following their NCAA Tournament appearance, attention was turned back to Vince and how to continue to forge that relationship. Thanks to Team Impact's efforts to educate the team on Vince's interests and passions in life, junior defensive back Luke Somers (Hampstead, N.H.) was fortunate enough to go skiing with Vince and the Skelton family.
"It was important to maintain contact with Vince, I didn't want the relationship to completely drop off just because the season was over," said Somers, a History major with a concentration on Secondary Education. "I went up to Loon Mountain with the Skelton's and learned a lot about Vince. He's loves in sports so we are going to plan on inviting him to some spring works to learn technique or how to play different positions. He also likes photography so we'll plan on visiting him at Ipswich High where he takes pictures at basketball games.
Following winter break, it was time to make Vince's commitment to Endicott football official and the wheels went into motion on how to make the official announcement.
"After the excitement of the playoff season wound down, we wanted to focus on how could put 100% into introducing Vince and not leave anything out," said 11-year Endicott head coach J.B. Wells. "We got a core group of about 25 guys that we call 'Team Vince' who wanted to be involved and they have been dedicated to making this experience special for Vince. It was then Alec Matys' idea to hold a draft day signing and the team organized a tremendous event."
Vince returned to the Hospitality Room where, with the lights and cameras turned on him, he signed on to be an official member of the Endicott football program. On the same night, Vince stood in front of a jam-packed MacDonald Gymnasium during the Endicott-Gordon men's basketball game and was announced to the raucous crowd as the football program's first recruit for 2014.
"The outcome could not have been better," said Matys. "We wanted to make it a day that Vince and his family would never forget. We are lucky that he decided to sign with us and having him on our team is an honor. We all love him like a brother and are honored to be able to call him a teammate."