published Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Touch Down thrills Austin Clark

  • photo
    Austin Clark, left, gets a high five from Drew Keith during football practice at Hixson High School in this file photo.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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  • Hixson High student with Down syndrome playing football
    With his helmet on, one might never know the difference, but Hixson High School freshman lineman Austin Clark was born with Down syndrome. Playing several different sports throughout his life, Austin has quickly become one of the most magnetic, well-liked players on Hixson's team.

As his team began to make its way from the Finley Stadium turf back into the stands, Austin Clark, with the game ball under his arm, paused and began dancing as his teammates clapped and patted him on the back.

The Hixson freshman, who was born with Down syndrome, had capped his team's 27-0 win over Grace Academy in the Best of Preps jamboree with a 65-yard touchdown run on the final play of the quarter.

"It was the whole team's idea," Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "When we got the ball back, several of the seniors came over and told me they wanted to get Austin in the game, so I called time out and told [Grace] Coach [Bob] Ateca that we were putting him in and giving him the ball.

"All the seniors wanted to be in there to block for Austin and watch out for him, but the Grace kids knew what was happening and they were great about it. You look at him over there, loving life and high-fiving everybody, and that's just a great memory."

Contact Stephen Hargis at or 423-757-6293.

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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