Franklin provides boy with unforgettable experience

Sept. 13, 2011

Like many local youth football players, 11-year old Andrew Kittrell would like nothing more than to one day play college football and hopefully even in the NFL.

If he has it his way, he will earn a scholarship to Vanderbilt and then move on and play for the Titans.

Don't tell Andrew the odds of him getting to do one, let alone both, are stacked against him. After all, it is not the first time people have doubted him.

Andrew, a fifth-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, was born without a left leg and is missing fingers on both hands. But it hasn't stopped him from pursuing his dream on the football field, where he plays linebacker for his school despite wearing a prosthetic leg.

Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin heard about Andrew's story through his wife, Fumi, and wanted to provide him with an experience he will never forget.

"I was already intrigued by the kid anyway and then when I heard him talk about Vanderbilt, it kind of took it to a whole `nother level," Franklin said.

Last week, Franklin called, Andrew's father, Michael, and invited Andrew to spend a gameday with the team when the Commodores played UConn. While some coaches may shy away from what could be viewed as a distraction to the team, Franklin embraced the opportunity to reach out to others just as he has so many times before during his short tenure at Vanderbilt.

"It is one of those things, again, where you reach out to the community and although we are football coaches and we are brought here to educate our guys and to win," Franklin said, "I also talk to the players that not only are we going to handle our business on the field, but also when we are going to have opportunities to make an impact in other people's lives, we should be able to do both."

After his phone conversation with Coach Franklin, Michael relayed the exciting news to his son, who couldn't believe the chance he had been afforded.

"Coach called my dad and my dad surprised me," Andrew said. "I had no clue and I about fainted when my dad told me what happened."

On Saturday, Andrew walked side-by-side with Franklin through Dore Alley Walk, spent time talking with the head coach in his office before the game and ran out of the tunnel with the team. After the team wrapped up a 24-21 win, Andrew joined Franklin one last time for his postgame interviews. The entire experience left an indelible mark on Andrew.

"It was a fun day today and I want to thank coach for letting me come out here and spend time with him," Andrew said after the game. "I had the best day of my life today."

The day also had a lasting impact on Franklin as well.

"Everybody knows that when you do these types of things, you end up getting more out of it than you actually gave, and I know I sure did."

Read more about Andrew:
Missing leg doesn't deter young linebacker - Tennessean (Sept. 5)
Boy with prosthetic leg finds success of football field - WKRN-TV (Sept. 8)

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