News Article- A ‘Star’ is Born: Kicker With Autism Lifts Brick

A great article about how inclusion can really help students.

A ‘Star’ is Born: Kicker With Autism Lifts Brick

highlights from the article:

As the ball rocketed through the uprights and the incredible story of Brick’s kicker with autism came to vivid life, those closest to him wondered if Anthony Starego fully grasped the enormity of what he had just done.

With a story this hard to believe, it’s not surprising that Starego himself turned out to be the one who remembered it more clearly than anyone.

On his first varsity field goal attempt, Starego nailed a 22-yarder with 21 seconds left in regulation to give the Green Dragons a stunning 24-21 victory on Friday night over a Toms River North team ranked No. 4 in the All Shore Media Top 10. In the split-second before the home stands erupted, the people who knew everything Anthony had been through to reach that moment short-circuited from the stress and emotion.

Anthony and his father were in attendance the night in 2006 when Ito hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired to help the Scarlet Knights shock previously unbeaten Louisville 28-25 and touch off a wild scene in Piscataway. Anthony, who was in seventh grade at the time, watched the highlight over and over in the following weeks, telling his father he wanted to be a kicker. Ray signed him up for the local Pop Warner team, beginning a six-year journey that climaxed on Friday night when Anthony touched off the Brick version of that Rutgers celebration six years ago.

“I kept thinking, ‘Does he know what’s going on?’’’ said Brick head coach Rob Dahl. “I can’t even explain it in words. He made the kick and he thought the game was over, like it was a walk-off field goal. He was ready to run into the locker room.’’

The average kicker attempting a field goal of that magnitude in his first varsity attempt would be overwhelmed by the pressure, but Anthony’s condition became a weapon instead of a limitation.

Ray and Reylene Starego adopted Anthony in 1997, when he was a 3-year-old orphan that Ray said was considered “unadoptable.’’ He had bounced around to 11 different foster homes and had an asthmatic condition and kidney reflux disease. He also had a tactile issue that made him hyper-sensitive to being touched or held, and he was largely non-verbal.

The diagnosis of autism was made official in 2005. The family had moved from Easton, Pa., to Brick to help get him the proper help he needed to develop, and in 2007 he signed up for Pop Warner after being inspired by Ito’s game-winning field goal.

In his first varsity start, Anthony earned the game ball from Dahl. He went 4-for-4 on extra points, which proved to be huge in a 28-27 win over the Raiders.

“He not only does the kicking but he participates in a lot of the fundamental drills with the wide receivers and the defensive backs, so he has earned the respect of his teammates,’’ Dahl said. “That moment was incredible, and then it got even better a week later.’’

The respect for Anthony carries off the field. If anyone messes with him in the hallways at school, there is a line of teammates behind him ready to have his back.

The boy who once hated to be touched is now an 18-year-old who will give you a firm hand shake and a smile after you are done interviewing him. He blames the siege of reporters on his dad, telling him, “This is all your fault,’’ but unfailingly breaks out in a grin when it’s time to relive his magical moment.

“I still remember everything,’’ Anthony said. “I will never forget it.’’

Here’s his interview on the today show

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