Support from the Sidelines - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Support from the Sidelines

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ELLENSBURG, Wash - It's a dreary day in Ellensburg.  The rain is drizzling down, it's chilly, but still Beau Baldwin's Wildcat football team is out on the practice field.  Groans come from the men dressed in full pads ready for a full day's practice until they see someone in the distance.  Suddenly, there's a spring in their step and smiles across their faces.

Dressed in a simple green down jacket with a black toboggan and jeans, Bryan Yancey stands ready and waiting for his instructions from the team.  Like every one out of 150 people Bryan suffers from Autism.  His social skills aren't very advanced and his speech is slower than most people's, but once he's out on the football field all of that disappears. 

"Every day is a struggle," says his mother Cyndi Loveland.  "But when we get out here he just lights up and every thing just disappears."  Cyndi couldn't be more right.  Bryan seems to be in his element on the sidelines with the team.  He helps the defense call out their plays by holding up the correct hand signal.  Then he treks across the field with the chain gang to make sure the offense gets their plays done correctly.  Now Bryan is even learning to run onto the field and take the tee off after the Wildcats kick-off. 

For Bryan this is heaven and for his mother, a dream come true.  For a few hours a day, and on away games on weekends if he's lucky, Bryan gets to be a part of a college experience he'd never get to have otherwise.  Not to mention he gets to be a part of his favorite team ever!  "Beau Baldwin is the best coach ever!" shouts Bryan with a huge smile.

But there's another part of Bryan's story that was completely unexpected.  "I don't think he even knows what he's done for us," says coach Baldwin.  "Somedays we come out here after a bad day or even after a loss and we're down on ourselves, and then we see Bryan.  And he's always in a good mood.  And to see what he goes through every day, our problems pale in comparison."

"When you're not happy about coming out to practice you can just look at Bryan and you see that he's having such a great time and it's a good boost.  He's part of the Wildcat family now."

Now the Wildcats are 6-1 on the season and playing with a ferver that seems to be coming from another place.  And maybe, just maybe, Bryan is the difference behind this year's team.

"This is by far the best experience we've ever had," says Cyndi as she looks lovingly to the players and coaches who have taken in her son and given him something she long thought impossible.