Lilya and Moffett are a Special Pair of Rebels
Special Needs Freshmen Play Varsity Football for Moose Lake/Willow River
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Danny Lilya has been part of the Moose Lake/Willow River football program since the 5th grade. But Danny isn’t like his Rebel teammates. Danny is in a wheelchair, but that doesn’t lessen his love for football.
“I just love football,” said Lilya. “I like to watch it, I like to play it. It’s just fun.”
“Danny’s a great athlete for not having use of his legs,” said Moose Lake/Willow River coach Dave Louzek. He’s part of Minnesota select Sled Hockey team, he loves sports and is very athletic.”
Born with a broken back, and clubbed feet, Danny needed 11 surgeries before the age of ten. Even though he can’t do as much as he’d like, Danny is there at practice, every day proving himself to teammates and coaches.
“They get a piece of what life in a wheelchair is like, and they get to know me a little better,” said Lilya. “It shows them that nothing stops me, I’ll always go to my limit.”
“Coming up through rebel football, we couldn’t wait to get him as part of our varsity program,” said Louzek, who got Danny in at the end of the Rebels regular season finale against Hermantown, a 59-32 loss.
“He came up to me and said “alright, it’s your turn,” said Lilya of the moment Louzek told him he was going in. “It got me excited to get in there.”
Louzek would like to get Danny in to more games.
“For other teams to experience that too, I think it’sa really good thing for everybody involved to see a kid in a wheelchair with a helmet on, shoulder pads, dressed like all the other kids,” he said.
However, Danny isn’t the Rebels, only special athlete.
Freshman Bo Moffett, who describes himself as “the best football player in the world,” was born with Williams Syndrome. And like Danny, Bo loves to play football.
“Rebel football is awesome, it makes me happy,” said Moffett.
“Bo is full of energy, he’s the life of the locker room,” said Louzek of the player with whom he’s formed a special bond.
“Early in the season he asked for my cell phone number,” said Louzek. “When I gave it to him, his parents said you might regret this. He sends me pictures, he sent me a picture of the pumpkin that he carved.”
Louzek knows Bo’s passion and enthusiasm are genuine.
“He’ll tell me I’m his favorite Rebel, and I’ll tell him he’s awesome and he’s my favorite Rebel,” said Louzek. “We have a lot of fun with that.”
For Louzek, getting kids like Bo and Danny involved with football is what part of being part of the Rebel family is about.
“We’ve always had a place for kids like Bo and Danny on this team,” said Louzek. “I think it’s really important for those kids to be included and have the opportunity that every other kid at school has. And it’s important for the other kids to see kids like Bo and Danny out here interacting every day, having fun in the locker room fun on the field.”