Local high school football team embraces man with special needs as waterboy

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Waterboy Matt Speakman poses for a photo after a local high school football game. | Nichole Stanford, EastIdahoNews.com

SUGAR CITY — If you asked most of the players on the Sugar-Salem football team who their MVP is, without a doubt they would say waterboy Matt Speakman.

When Tyler Richins started coaching the Sugar Salem Digger’s football team, he met Matt, a man with special needs, riding his bike around town and watching practices. After getting to know him, Richins knew he wanted him to be a part of his team.

“I found out he liked football. He switched back and forth between BYU and Utah, depending on who he is watching it with,” Richins said.

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Nichole Stanford, EastIdahoNews.com

When Richins asked Speakman if he wanted to be the waterboy, he didn’t even hesitate to say yes.

“The kids love him — he’s missed when he’s not here,” Richins said. “They treat him really well. It’s not only good for Matt, but it’s good for our team to have him there. It’s a good opportunity to have them work with Matt and have Matt work with them. When he’s not at practice, or not at a game, we feels like we are missing a teammate.”

Speakman likes being a part of the team. He gets to go on the bus with them and he loves interacting with the players.

“I like to help the football team and help them win. I like to ride on the bus with them,” Matt said. He gives all the boys high fives and loves to just be a part of the Digger family.

“He rides the bus to and from games, he comes to practices every day. He’s super reliable. I don’t have to harp on him and tell him to get those bottles filled,” Richins said. “As soon as he gets here he knows what his responsibilities are, his job is. He stands real close so when the players need water. I don’t have to say, ‘Hey, where’s Matt at?’ He’s always where he needs to be, he knows when to keep his distance. It would be a lot more of a challenge if he wasn’t here. He does a lot of good things for us.”

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Nichole Stanford, EastIdahoNews.com

Being the kicker for the team, Kyle Terry is on the sidelines for most of the games. He has had the chance to get to know him and loves having Matt on the team.

“Matt is a special guy,” Kyle said. “A lot of fun. He is always coming up to us asking ‘How are you, how you doing?’ We love having him on the team. He’s a people person he likes being around people, talking to people. He does it for the guys. He loves just hanging out with the guys. It’s different having someone like him as the waterboy instead of just another player — it makes it that much more special.”

Matt Christensen’s son Jake is a junior at Sugar-Salem and loves having Matt as their waterboy. Christensen knows the importance that having someone like Matt in his son’s life.

“I love Matt being the waterboy. It gives him a real sense of purpose,” Christensen said. “He feels like he is a part of the team. He talks about it all the time almost nonstop. I know his parents really enjoys the role that he plays. The coaches make him feel included, the kids make him feel included. Matt grooves on it. Jake thinks it’s cool. I don’t want to say that he’s filled a position, but he really has. He’s made these boys think about more than themselves which for kids that age is kind of hard to do because they are very self centered.”

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