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A birthday wish come true
Dad thanks Eagles, Lunsford for making son's day one to remember
Kyler at GSU
Fulfilling a birthday wish thanks to GS football coach Chad Lunsford, Kyler Aubrey leads the Georgia Southern football team onto the field prior to Saturday's homecoming victory over South Alabama at Paulson Stadium. (FRANK FORTUNE/special)

Many fathers dream of their kids doing well in sports. When your job is in the sports field, that feeling is even stronger. When I found out my first child was going to be a boy, I had quickly visualized me covering him scoring his first touchdown, being the star in high school and going on to play in college and the pros.

Kyler's birth was a little traumatic, but nothing that far out of the ordinary. My wife was forced to have a C-section, but he was a 9-pound, 7-ounce big, healthy boy. At least there were no indications anything was out of the ordinary.

When Kyler was about 6 months old, we realized he wasn't reaching his milestones and began to be concerned. We went through testing that took us throughout the southeast, and about five years later, we were told he had a rare condition called Lissencephaly and Pachygyria, which is very similar to cerebral palsy.

At that point, being young parents, it's your worst fear come true. How long will he live? Will he walk, talk? What will the future hold for him? For us? 

So many questions, and unfortunately not a lot of answers, as many cases are different, but walking and talking seemed highly unlikely.

In those five years of testing, one thing was clear: Kyler was smart, and he loved sports. When he was about 2, he would push himself up to the television and change the channel from cartoons to the Golf Channel and other sports stations.

Through my job I have had the ability to take him to many sporting events, and golf has been his favorite. I think that goes back to him watching Tiger Woods at an early age, and the fact that when I take him to golf tournaments, he can get right up to the edge of the action. And many times the golfers interact with him, which he loves.

Through the years I have been fortunate enough to take him annually to Bay Hill in Orlando, The Players Championship in Jacksonville and The Masters. He loves to watch, but there is no doubt what he likes the most is the interactions with the pros, many of whom we now know personally.

We have become close friends with Graeme McDowell. Rickie Fowler has called us and gotten us tickets for the Masters. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose all come up and call him by name at tournaments. 

Tiger Woods may get a bad rap for not being the most accommodating with fans, but our interactions have always been kind, and he has gone out of his way to talk to Kyler and has signed over a dozen things for him.

The trouble with other sports is it is harder to get up close with the athletes. He loves to go to basketball, baseball and football games, but it is impossible to get anywhere close to the players without some kind of field pass or sideline pass, which are difficult to come by. 

I have been hesitant to use my job in sports as a way of getting him access because that is frowned upon in our business, but I made an exception last week, as it was Kyler's birthday and he had a request.

He had heard a friend of mine got his son a birthday package through Georgia Southern and got to do the Eagle Walk and go on the field to watch the team take the field. The birthday packages are for kids, and Kyler was turning 26, so I found coach Chad Lunsford after a recent game and spoke with him about it. 

It is rare that you find a head coach in any sport with a heart as big as Chad Lunsford. So, it was no surprise to me that he went above and beyond in order to help take care of Kyler.

Not only did he allow Kyler to walk with the team during the Eagle Walk, as they headed from the busses to the locker room, he also let Kyler lead the team onto the field for their pre-game entrance.

Kyler got to meet many of the players during the Eagle Walk and in the time they were waiting to come out. Players and some coaches took pictures with him and interacted with him, but leading the team onto the field was the thing he kept talking about afterward.

During the game Kyler was in a friend of our's box with his sister Sloan and was telling everyone that would listen about how he got to go on the field and meet the players. This was his first time getting onto the field and was very special for him.

I am glad we live in a community where things like this are able to happen and am thankful for a special man like Chad Lunsford, who went out of his way to make my son's 26th birthday one he won't soon forget.

Josh Aubrey is a videographer, sports writer and news anchor for the Statesboro Herald.

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