Two years ago, 10-year-old Deven Jackson from Sherman’s Dale, Pa. thought he had just come down with a bad case of strep throat.
It turned out to be much worse.
In an interview with CBS News last month, Deven and his parents told the story about how a case of bacterial meningitis threatened the young boy’s life, leaving him with less than a 10 percent chance of survival. Deven was able to overcome the disease but doctors had to amputate both of his legs below the knees.
“I cried,” said David Jackson, Deven’s father. “I couldn’t say nothing. I couldn’t speak, I just cried.”
Football is Deven’s favorite sport, and although the surgery threatened to take away his dream of playing in the NFL, he was determined to get back on the field. It took him a year to learn to walk again, and then how to run using the help of customized running blades.
“They’d probably say, that kid can’t play football no more, he can’t do nothing,” Deven told CBS. “And I showed them up.”
He began playing football again this fall, and scored his first touchdown in two years. Tim Tebow, the former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, visited Deven at his West Perry midget football practice. He’s also appeared on Good Morning America alongside Tebow, and was featured on the CBS Evening News.
This Wednesday, he was able to realize another football dream: practicing with James Franklin and the Nittany Lions.
After practice, James Franklin reflected on what it meant to see his players running around with Deven and how the football team can be a positive part of the community.
“When I say community, that’s the campus, that’s State College, that’s the state in general,” Franklin said. “When we hear stories of people that have an interesting story or a connection with Penn State or have something that I think our guys can learn from, and hopefully have a positive impact on them as well, then why not get together?”