At some schools, football players are known for bullying classmates, but one team at an Arizona High School made national news for stopping it. And not with fists, but with something far more powerful–compassion.
It all started at lunchtime at Queen Creek High School in 2012 when the starting quarterback of the undefeated football team found out that bullies relentlessly harassed a special needs student day after day.
“She’d come home crying, saying that she really didn’t have any friends, and that people were bullying her,” said high school senior and quarterback, Carson Jones.
Chy Johnson was born with a brain disorder which made her function at a third grade level—but even so that never took away the “gleam in her eye” or affected her “permanent smile,” according to her mother, Liz Johnson.
Until she started high school.
At 16 years old, high school was an unbearable and unavoidable part of Chy’s life—something she just tried to live through. Bullies called her “stupid,” shoved her in the hallways, and threw trash at the sophomore on a daily basis. She didn’t have any friends—and every day Chy would come home from school in tears.
Her mother, Liz Johnson, said she got nowhere with teachers and administrators, so she reached out to family friend and high school senior, Carson Jones—who had also escorted Chy to the Special Olympics once. She asked him to provide the names of the bullies and to keep an eye on her daughter.
But Carson went one step further and did something better.
“I just thought that if they saw her with us every day, maybe they’d start treating her better,” he told ESPN. “Telling on kids would’ve just caused more problems.”
Instead, the 18-year-old quarterback with a 4.3GPA invited Chy to eat lunch at the cool kids’ table with him and his teammates every day.
It didn’t stop there.
“She’s pretty much been with us ever since,” said Jones.
The whole team took on the role of protecting Chy.
Starting running back Tucker Workman made sure someone walked Chy between classes. Cornerback Colton Moore made sure there was a spot for Chy behind the team in classes. The team also took Chy to dances and parties, and even invited her down to the sidelines during games.
It wasn’t long before she became an unofficial member of the team. “I call them my boys,” Chy said.
“They’re my boys and I’m their lucky girl,” she said to People. “They’re awesome.”
Carson and his team’s kind actions have not only stopped the bullying and totally transformed Chy back to her usual bubbly self, it’s also changed the entire school atmosphere.
“I think about how sweet these boys are to her,” volleyball player Shelly Larson told ESPN, “and I want to cry. I can’t even talk about it.”
“Everyone kind of realizes that this is the way to go, and not bullying because there’s better consequences when you’re nice to everyone than when you’re not,” Carson said.
Liz said her daughter’s life would have been completely different if the “wholesome” and “good-natured” teen hadn’t taken action. She expressed her gratitude to the teen.
“If it wasn’t for Carson, I honestly think we would have pulled her out of school and homeschooled her.”
And that’s how one girl most high school football players wouldn’t even notice, much less hang out with, had an unforgettable sophomore year.