By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
Years from now, Haughton coach Jason Brotherton will remember a decision he made in an otherwise-forgettable game against an otherwise-forgettable opponent in another part of the state.
And to be honest, he really doesn’t know why he made it. It just happened.
It might be too strong to say it changed Brotherton’s life or that it changed the life of one of his players.
“But in 30 years, I’m going to remember the day when Coleman Pratt kicked an extra point,” Brotherton says. “Because I know where he has had to overcome to get to where he is.”
Rest assured, Coleman Pratt isn’t going to forget it either. And neither will anybody else who saw it.
* * *
Brotherton has known Pratt’s parents from church, so it wasn’t a total surprise when Coleman came to see Brotherton during his freshman year. “His mom wanted him to be involved in something in high school,” Brotherton says. “So we got him out there kicking.”
By itself, that is not a very unusual story. Until you consider this: Coleman Pratt has a form of dwarfism.
It is a condition that affects about 1 in every 25,000 births and results in the limbs (arms and legs) and trunk which are not the same proportion as average-height individuals.
He could have been a manager or a statistician or videographer, but Pratt wanted to be on the team. His grandfather suggested that he try to be a holder on place kicks.
Nope. “I wanted to kick,” Pratt says.
Even so, kicking was going to be a challenge.
“It was probably three-quarters through his sophomore year before he could even get it high enough to get it over the cross bar,” Brotherton says. “But he shows up every day and he works. He’s gotten better and better every day.”
“One of my goals is to never give up,” Pratt says. “I know that people don’t see me as a kicker. I want to prove to them that I can be a kicker.”
It would be one thing if Pratt stood off to side and kicked during a few practices and just showed up for the game. Given his physical limitations, that would be completely understandable. But that’s not how Pratt goes about his job.
“He doesn’t skip out of any work,” Brotherton says. “He does all the running, all the off-season conditioning, all the stuff everyone on the team does.”
“Running in the off season has been tough,” Pratt says. “Even when they say to go 60 percent, I always go 100 percent so that I can keep up with other people.”
Once Pratt had improved enough, Brotherton figured it was time to step it up a notch. The Bucs end each practice with their kickers making an extra point. When he was a sophomore, Pratt was the third-string kicker, so it was time for him to perform in front of the entire team.
But there was one problem – Pratt refused to do it.
“About Week 7, I told him ‘I think you should give it a try because I think you can make it,’ but he still didn’t want to do it,” Brotherton says. “So the next week, I pretty much made him.”
Pratt didn’t make his end-of-practice kick on his first try. But when he did “you’d have thought we won the Super Bowl,” Brotherton says. “Kids were running all over the field just going crazy.”
“Some days I have bad days and some days I have really good days,” Pratt says. “Kicking is not all about how you kick. It’s also about how you think. If you believe in yourself, you can do it.”
You’d better hang on for this – football isn’t the only sport he plays at Haughton. He is also on the soccer and baseball teams. “This is a kid whose mom and dad probably didn’t think he could be involved in anything, “Brotherton says. “And now he plays more sports than almost any kid up here. And everybody loves him.”
As the Bucs were dominating LaGrange last week on the road in Lake Charles – on a field with impossibly high grass – Brotherton had a decision to make.
Only it really wasn’t much of a decision.
“We were ahead in the game and my man has worked hard to get to this point,” he says. “So we wanted to give him a chance.”
Pratt was more concerned about the thickness of the grass than being nervous and he missed his first attempt in the first half. But he got another shot in the second half and knocked it home.
“I loved it because it was my first varsity point,” Pratt says. “I was pretty excited and after the game I called my grandpa because he has been my biggest supporter. We talked about how he wishes he had been there.”
“There weren’t very many people there in the stands, so it didn’t get that much of a reaction,” Brotherton says. “But if that happens at home, you better look out.”
The kid who just wanted to be a part of a team in high school has done a lot more than just score a varsity point in high school football. He has topped that accomplishment by overcoming obstacles that few would have even attempted.
Coleman Pratt is not a curiosity. Coleman Pratt is a contributing member of the Haughton Bucs football team.
“Looking back on the film and seeing everybody cheering for me,” Pratt says. “That makes me …”
He didn’t finish the sentence.
He didn’t have to.
Contact JJ at email@example.com