Ever since he was a young boy in his backyard, Brandon Powell has loved football.
His mother remembers Brandon's brothers playing catch with him for hours in the backyard. Those brothers are now in the military, but Powell found a second family in the Whiteville Wolfpack football team.
"He's like a good luck charm," Todd Burney, Whiteville's offensive line coach, said. "They need him here. They need him being part of the team."
Powell was born mute and autistic. Twenty-seven years later, it's abundantly clear the diagnosis hasn't gotten in the way of him pursuing his passion.
The Whiteville alum puts on a jersey every game, dances to the pregame music and runs out with the team before kickoff.
"It's the simple things that make him happy," Burney said. "In 2017, the current day, we lose touch of that."
Powell has a favorite spot near the Whiteville bench where he jumps around and claps his hands after every big play. He brings that same enthusiasm and positive attitude to the practice field.
"A lot of our kids don't have the best situations," Burney said. "Maybe that makes them feel good when Brandon walks up and sticks his hand out to shake their hand."
Burney first met Powell in 2006 when Powell was a student at Whiteville.
He's never spoken a word in his life, but his actions speak volumes.
"I think it puts a smile on people's face when they see Brandon on the sidelines," Burney said. "It makes your heart feel good."
Powell has no plans to leave the team anytime soon. He's one of the guys now, and that's exactly the way he and the team want it.
"I'm so proud of them, all of them," Linda Powell, Brandon's mother, said. "It makes me feel good that he's happy all the time."
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