K.L. Norwood of Fossil Ridge High School was on the sidelines during homecoming, enjoying the game just like everyone else. He couldn't play football, but his best friend, Max Akin, was the star quarterback.
Since Max was the quarterback and a popular guy in school, K.L. guessed he would take home the honors of homecoming king. But when the time came to announce the winner, something unexpected happened, and K.L.'s high school life wound up changing thanks to a thoughtful gesture from his best friend.
It Started With An Incredible Game
It was a typical Friday night in Texas but Fossil Ridge High School quarterback Max Akin was having an incredible night under the bright lights.
By halftime, the play-caller had already thrown for 200 yards, run for 60, and given his team four touchdowns.
Max Akin Was An Unlikely Best Friend For K.L.
Those are some pretty impressive stats to rack up and the game wasn't over. Still, Akin hadn't made the most significant play of his young life yet.
That's because on the sidelines cheering for Max was the team manager K.L.
Max Was Your Typical "Popular Kid"
Akin started his high school football career as a wide receiver at Fossil Ridge. However, his natural arm made him an obvious lock to transition to the quarterback position.
By the time his senior year arrived, he was the man leading the team.
He Was One Of Five Vying For The Crown
Akin was a leader and one of the school's most popular kids. His infectious personality and great smile made him all the more likable. When homecoming came around, Akin was one of the five boys up to win the crown.
And sure enough, there was K.L. Norwood on the sideline cheering for him.
Homecoming Was A Night Fit For A King
This was homecoming night which meant this wasn't your ordinary game for Fossil Ridge. Any high school kid will tell you that homecoming is one of the biggest nights of the year.
The lights were all on Akin, the star quarterback.
K.L. Had No Idea What Would Happen Next
As he was ready to lead his team to victory and become the king of the night, his best friend K.L. watched patiently on the sidelines.
K.L. was the football team's manager and didn't know what was about to happen next...
K.L. Norwood Couldn't Play Football, So He Was Team Manager
K.L. (Kemper Louis) Norwood wasn't even supposed to make it to high school. His days were predicted to be over right after his complicated birth. Born three months prematurely, he only weighed one pound and 13 ounces.
Due to the fact that he barely survived his entry into the world, the doctors gave his parents some harsh news.
A Difficult, But Rewarding Choice
The revealed that K.L. would most likely lose his ability to walk, talk, see, and hear. Doctors even gave K.L.'s parents the option to take him off of life support.
They chose to give him the chance to live a full life -- a chance that Norwood hasn't taken for granted.
The Diagnosis That Would Change His Life
After the problems caused by K.L.'s premature birth, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. That is a condition that affects one's physical development.
Cerebral palsy, or CP, often creates a lack of basic coordination, loss of fluidity in your walk, and a host of other developmental challenges like speech impediments.
Cerebral Palsy Can't Stop K.L.
For K.L., this diagnosis meant no sports with the rest of his classmates and friends.
But CP couldn't keep Norwood off the football field as you will soon see...
A Beloved Senior
Norwood was really influential at his high school. He was admired, loved, and respected by his peers.
"You can tell everyone just loves him," Staci Murto, a teacher at Fossil Ridge, told the Dallas Morning News.
He Wanted To Share His Passion For The Sport
Akin told the news outlet that "everybody in the school loves K.L. You see him walking down the hallway and he's shaking at least 12 hands at a time."
Even though Norwood couldn't play sports, he had a huge desire to contribute.
He Jumped At The Chance
The sport K.L. loves the most is football. It only makes sense that it's the game he could help out most in.
When his senior year rolled around, he decided to become one of Fossil Ridge's student equipment managers, which was a great decision.
More Than A Manager
Every day before class, and before the football team made their entrance to the field, K.L was there filling up water bottles, prepping the uniforms, and making sure everything was right for the players.
For his undying contributions, K.L. was nominated for homecoming king.
Everyone Was Excited For Homecoming
Other than the senior prom or the state championship game, homecoming night is right up there as one of the most important events of the year at Fossil Ridge.
There are plenty of festivities, ceremonies, and of course, the football game.
Ordinarily, there are five students elected to the royal court, the "shortlist" for homecoming king. Each nominated student makes a video explaining why they should win.
Akin had a lot he could have talked about in his video, but he did something unexpected.
Showing Support For K.L.
Akin did the humble thing and made a video that encouraged his classmates to vote for the student who "positively uplifts this school the most."
If it were up to Akin, he would want everyone to choose K.L. "K.L. is honestly the most positive guy I've ever met in my life," Max said.
He Couldn't Stop Gushing About His Friend
Akin just couldn't let up on talking up his dear friend K.L.
He went and said that K.L. will always laugh at your jokes and make you feel way funnier than you really were.
When halftime of the homecoming game came around, there was not a single person who was shocked when Akin won the homecoming king crown.
However, K.L. was eager to win and felt a bit downhearted, but continued to cheer on his friend.
The Real Handoff
Without a heads up or any type of fanfare, after he was done taking pictures with the queen, Akin went over to K.L. He motioned for K.L. to come over to where he was and once he did, he suddenly dropped to one knee.
That's when Akin handed the crown to K.L. and gave him the honor he felt he should have received the whole time. Once the crowd realized what was going on, they erupted into cheers. It was the best play of the night.
Something Wasn't Quite Right
"It was really exciting. I knew he was going to win from the get-go, so I clapped for him," K.L. said.
After Akin won, he took some pictures with the queen, but he still felt like something was off...
The King Of The Night
Chants of "K.L!" echoed through Texas once the school's most beloved pupil received the honor of homecoming king from Akin. This was truly an honor of a lifetime for K.L. His sadness immediately turned into pure bliss. Even the queen couldn't keep her joy to herself.
"I thought it was the best hearing them chant K.L.'s name right after halftime," Akin told a local television station. "And I know he liked that too. Everybody was going wild for him. Everybody loves K.L. at this school.
Letting It Sink In
When everyone in the crowd chanted K.L.'s name, all he could do was stand there and smile as he soaked up one incredible moment. "It was really nice of him to do that, and I'm actually glad he did but yes, it did surprise me," K.L. said. "It made me really, really happy."
After Akin came up from taking the knee without the crown on his head, he told K.L. he loved him as he embraced the new king. That was the biggest trick play of his career as a quarterback.
A Message From Max
Social media did its job and ended up having this heartfelt story picked up by the local media. "If you spread a little bit of love and compassion around, that's all we really need and something lacking in today's world- a little bit of positivity every once in a while," Max said.
After the local news picked it up, the story made its way to the national level. It became so big that eventually Ellen Degeneres picked up the phone and called the boys...
The Ellen Show
One of the most popular daytime talk shows on TV has to be The Ellen Degeneres Show. Ellen is purely magical as she amuses the audience and all of her special guests. There is never any telling what she is going to ask or say next.
Some of her fans' favorite segments are the ones that include everyday people doing extraordinary things. This is why K.L. and Akin made for the perfect guests to appear on this show.
From Texas To Cali
When ordinary citizens are the guest stars on Ellen's show, she usually gifts them with some type of award. That can include cars, money, or charitable donations. Once the producers heard about K.L. and Akin's touching story, it was only right they pay the gesture forward.
Three weeks after that fateful homecoming night, Ellen brought in the two high school kids to her set. She wanted to celebrate the kind act that was so inspiring to many.
Spreading The Love
Before the two students arrived on stage, Ellen told the audience the backstory to help them better understand. Ellen was blown away by the great gesture Akin did for his friend with CP, but Akin insisted the CP had little to do with his decision.
"I don't see K.L. as a disabled person, I see him as a great human being. As a homecoming king, you should be able to make people happy and give good vibes all around the room, and K.L. never fails to do that," Akin said.
The Golden Rule
Akin had achieved the platform to relay a more important message to the masses, and he did not misuse his chance to deliver to a national audience. In an honorable fashion, Akin said, "I think me and K.L. really want to get across the fact that, as corny as it may sound, you've got to treat everyone the way you want to be treated."
He then said that if you ever had the chance to make somebody's day, then you should not hesitate to take it. After he said this, the crowd erupted just like they did on the homecoming night.
Ellen Pays It Forward
As the show progressed and approached the end, Akin and K.L. were about to receive the ultimate gift. After they announced they would attend a college that fall, Ellen gave them each checks for $10,000 that they could use towards their education!
In true Ellen fashion, a production manager ran onto the stage with the huge checks in hand, prepared with Akin and K.L.'s names on them. "We need more people like you in the world," Ellen told the duo.
Being Positive Is A Great Thing
"It was a whole bunch of great guys," Akin said about the other candidates, "but I knew exactly who deserved the crown. As soon as I heard the nominees, I knew K.L. was the one who should get it."
Although K.L. didn't officially win, his positive spirit and gracious attitude led to him winning anyway. This story is just another example of how being a genuinely good person can be a great thing in this world.
From The Beginning
It's not really a hot take to say that Tebow has become one of the most polarizing sports figures. You can say what you want about his play on the field, but his commitment to being a genuinely good person off of the field isn’t up for debate.
Between his faith and love for helping others, Tebow checks off all the boxes of who you’d want your kid to look to as a role model.
His Time With The Gators
During his time as the quarterback for the University of Florida, he became an international sensation. He won the Heisman Trophy (the top player in the nation) with ease. His unapologetically faith-based worldview was also very different, and many saw it as refreshing.
While he was surely a stud on the field, his body of work off of the field is probably even more impressive. He stood for something much more than football.
The Heisman Winner
While at the University of Florida, he proudly displayed his faith on the field. While many athletes claim to be religious, many of them keep their faith off of the field and out of the public eye. But not Tebow. Not even close.
He wasn't just a person, he was a myth. He was a legend that we could see with our own eyes leading the Gators to a National Championship over the Oklahoma Sooners.
Made The Move To The NFL
Tebow had this uncanny ability to block out all of the noise and stay true to himself. After four terrific years in college, it was time to make the jump to the NFL. He was taken in the first round by the Denver Broncos and was seen as the future of the league.
He was the type of talent that would be able to redefine what it meant to be a QB. But, that didn't happen. He ended up getting traded and never really got grounded on one team.
A True Role Model
But, despite his on-field struggles, he was someone who genuinely cared for his community. He was a man that always saw the bigger picture. He never let his failed NFL career get in the way of being a good role model and citizen.
He was making a difference for many kids and families when he started the Tim Tebow Foundation. This organization was what he cared about more than any football game.
What Really Matters
The Foundation is the vessel that allows Tim to publicly put his faith into action. It was an organization that allowed him to help thousands of people around the globe, with a specific eye towards the children.
You'll almost never see Tebow rant or rave about any stat or game he’s played, but you’ll see his genuine satisfaction when he talks about his Foundation and the kids that he gets to meet. His emotion is raw.
It Was Bigger Than Himself
His passion for helping the less fortunate is more inspiring than any comeback he's led or important pass he’s thrown. His Foundation is an umbrella for other smaller foundations that have specific goals they want to achieve.
For example, he built a hospital in the Philippines through the Tim Tebow Cure Hospital foundation and builds specialty child playrooms in hospitals throughout the world under the Timmy’s Playroom foundation. But, out of all the foundations, he has a favorite.
His Favorite Night Of The Year
The One Night To Shine program is Tim's favorite. It’s dedicated to giving special needs children around the globe an unforgettable prom-style night. It’s the biggest night and event that his charity puts on.
It’s a night that garners a lot of attention from other celebrities and really brings light to the causes that Tebow looks to showcase. When I say that this night is big, I mean big. Like, worldwide big.
A Worldwide Impact
They need almost 175,000 volunteers from across the world, and they put these celebrations on in 16 different countries. One Night to Shine hosts 90,000 children and gives them a red-carpet experience full of dancing, celebration, and flashy suits and dresses.
It changes lives and gives kids a certain confidence that doesn't just appear that night, but it lingers with them forever. This is an event that allows you to remember that good people still exist.
The Outside Looking In
The night is centered on God's love and is hosted by 537 churches around the world. It usually gets overlooked just how important a good prom experience really can be.
Often times, kids with special needs don’t get an extravagant prom night. So, this charity celebrates those who are often on the outside looking in. No one knows that better than a girl named Judy Adams, who is one of Tebow’s biggest fans.
Judy Adams is no stranger to the spotlight and fighting for things that she's passionate about. She loves Tim Tebow, and she loves to help people who have been affected by Down Syndrome like she is.
She started her own company called Dimes for Downs which started as a fun idea and has now solidified itself as a legitimate charity. Her mom also has a charity that looks to help people with Downs called Gifts From the Heart for Downs.
Dimes For Downs
Judy decided that she wanted to start raising money for her mom's charity by collecting dimes locally. Well, let’s just say that those local efforts turned national very quick.
That’s how Dimes for Downs started, and on its sixth anniversary, Adams officially hit the goal she intended — half a million dimes. In fact, she raised 501,409 dimes, which is an incredible figure considering it started as a grassroots charity.
The Incredible Amount She Raised
As we had mentioned before, she was also a huge Tim Tebow fan. It wasn't just because he was a star athlete with a huge public persona, but because of all the work he does for the Down Syndrome community.
Prior to her going to a One Night to Shine prom event, she reached out to Tebow and invited him to be her date. Due to prior engagements, he couldn’t make it, but he took notice.
Her Prom Night
Tim was incredibly bummed out that he couldn't make Judy’s day, week, month, and probably year. Heck, probably life. The request lingered in the back of his mind for a while as he was trying to figure out how he could surprise her.
So, following her prom night, Tebow reached out to her mom and offered two tickets to the Jimmy Fallon Show. Tim gave Judy’s mom a few important rules she had to follow.
A Surprise Was Coming
First, Judy needed to be told that they had won the tickets in a local raffle. She wasn't allowed to know that it was Tim Tebow who gave her the tickets.
The second catch was that Judy wasn’t allowed to find out Tim was going to be on the show. That was going to be the hardest part. Judy was so excited to be going to the show, that all she wanted to do was find out which celebrity she was going to see.
Tim Didn't Get A Prom Either
So, on the night of the show, Jimmy and Tim were talking about their prom experiences. They chatted a bit about the Tim Tebow Foundation, and Tim mentioned something astounding.
He said that because he was either playing football, basketball or baseball, he was never able to go to a prom. He was discussing how crushing that was to him, and he said there was a girl in the audience he would like to dance with.
The Magical Moment
Fallon offered Tebow a corsage, and he graciously accepted it. He turned to the audience and started describing how inspirational and influential Judy Adams was. Let's remember, Judy didn’t even know Tim was going to be on the show.
He mentioned that she invited him to be her date, but that he couldn’t make it that night. The camera panned over to Judy who was in complete shock sitting next to her mom.
The Dance That Millions Witnessed
It was at that moment that Tebow asked Judy if she wanted to dance. I don't think there has ever been a happier "YES" screamed on planet earth. She stood up to a thunderous applause from the audience and approached him.
They embraced and started slow dancing in front of millions of people. It was a moment that Judy will certainly never forget. The emotions were high in the room as audience members wiped away their tears.
Her Mom Was So Proud
The moment was incredibly special. You could hear Tebow telling her that she looked beautiful as she looked him in the eyes. He asked her if she was surprised and she screamed "YES" at the top of her lungs.
The camera panned over to her mom who was still in the audience and she was visibly crying. Actually, I think it's safe to say that she was bawling her eyes out.
The Backstage Treatment
The special treatment didn't stop at the fact she just danced with Tim Tebow on national TV. Nope, she was given a backstage pass and toured around with Tebow and some people who worked at the show.
She also ran into Kerry Washington, who was the other guest on the show that night. You would probably recognize her from her role in the drama Scandal. Judy couldn’t contain her excitement.
The Only People In The Room
After the tour was over, it was time to just hang out and chat. What's so impressive about Tebow is that when you’re talking to him, he makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room. All of his attention is on you.
It’s rare to find someone who is as genuine and caring. I know I’ve said it before in this article, but it’s a trait that many public figures just don’t have.
He Made A Career Change
Tim Tebow decided to do a little Michael Jordan switcheroo. No, that's not a basketball move, but it does refer to the fact that he switched sports and decided to try his luck with baseball.
He was still guided by his unbreakable faith, and knew that the end of his football career was just an opening to something else. So, instead of resorting to being a coach in the NFL, which many people thought he was going to do, he went to the minors… in baseball.
The "Michael Jordan"
By this time in his career he has enough money to retire twice, so he can take these risks without having to worry about a financial downfall. By the way, Michael Jordan was in the same "retire twice" boat, which shouldn't surprise you.
The problem for Tebow was that he hadn’t picked up a bat or a glove since his junior year of high school. With that being said, he was a very good high school player.
Proving The Critics Wrong
Despite all the critics, he's doing a pretty darn good job. For not playing for as long as he did, he’s meshing well in the minor leagues. During his 2018 season with Double-A Binghamton, he hit .273 with six homers. He even got picked to be at the All-Star game, which is very impressive.
He is expected to return to play ball in 2019 and it seems likely that he’ll go up to Triple-A, which would put him in a position to be called up to the New York Mets.
He Was A Beast
There's a reason that he was considered one of the greatest college football players to ever play the game. He broke an SEC record by scoring 51 rushing touchdowns. That broke Herschel Walker’s previous record. Yes, Tebow was a QB and Walker was a running back. It’s insane.
He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman trophy in NCAA history. That season, he passed for 32 touchdowns and ran for 23 more. His stats really speak for themselves.
He Even Broke Some NFL Records
His NFL career didn't pan out, but he did have a pretty electric start to his career. He broke a few records and gave Denver Broncos fans plenty to be excited about.
In his first game, he ran for a 40-yard touchdown. Also in his first game, he became one of three QBs in history to run for a 40-yard TD and throw for a touchdown of 30 yards or more in the same game.
But It Was Short-Lived
By his third career start, he became the first QB in NFL history to rush for a touchdown in each of his first three starts. He won seven games as a starter in his first season.
He led the team to the playoffs that year. Unfortunately, that would be the end of any greatness for Tebow in the NFL. He was traded to the New York Jets just one day after they signed Peyton Manning.
He Does Some Broadcasting Gigs
In 2013, Tebow was hired by ESPN as a college football analyst. He appeared on the SEC Network as a co-host of SEC Nation, a travelling pre-game show, and was a contributor to many other ESPN shows.
Even when he was still playing in the NFL, he appeared on TV as a panelist on many of the big college football games. He also had a couple co-hosting gigs at Good Morning America.
His Faith-Based Journey
What's especially interesting about Tebow is that he was born in the Philippines because his parents were Baptist missionaries at the time. He was raised in a faith-based home. One of his signature things was to have bible verses engraved in his eye-black before games.
He would also get down on one knee and pray after a touchdown and before the game. This became a very famous move that many people across all sports would do. It was dubbed "Tebowing".
Where He's Going From Here
Whether he was going to win or lose on the field, it didn't really matter. He had outgrown this idea that he was just some one-dimensional football player with nothing to contribute to society.
Not many athletes have done as much off the field and still received flak in the process. Tebow thankfully understands how to tune it out and keep being himself. He’ll continue to be a man dedicated to helping others day in and day out.