State College kindergartener Antonio Young is set to make his NFL debut for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday — sort of.
The likeness of Young, who is autistic, will appear on the right cleat of Seahawks linebacker Terence Garvin as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative. A likeness of Garvin’s niece will appear on the left.
Garvin wanted to raise awareness for autism and, because he knows Antonio’s father, it seemed only natural to honor the Mount Nittany Elementary student. He’ll wear the cleats during the pregame but, because it’s outside of the NFL’s official Week 13 cleats campaign, he won’t be able to wear them during the game.
“We didn’t see this coming,” Antonio’s mother, Davina Terry, told the State College Area School District with a laugh. “He just sent us the pictures of the cleats and we thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’”
For the last two seasons, the NFL has partnered with The Players’ Tribune to allow players to wear custom cleats during one game a season to reflect their commitment to charitable causes. Some players have chosen to make it nearly a weekly exercise, the only exception being that the regular cleats have to go on once the game starts.
Garvin, the Seahawks’ backup outside linebacker, teamed up with artist Marcus Williams to design Sunday’s pair of blue cleats, complete with an autism puzzle piece in the shape of a Nike swoosh and two portraits.
“Autism being part of my family, I can take them on the field with me,” Garvin wrote on his Instagram account.
Antonio’s father, Antonio Sr., met Garvin when they both lived near Pittsburgh. They shared the same fraternity — Garvin at West Virginia; Antonio Sr. at Penn State — and Garvin felt comfortable taking advice from a friend who also happened to be a sports consultant.
Antonio Jr. was born right around the time Garvin initially signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“He understood when we found out our baby had autism,” Terry said. “He remembered when his sister had to go through that, so that was something close to him.”
Garvin — and Antonio Jr. — will take on the Dallas Cowboys at 4:25 p.m. Sunday in Arlington, Texas.