Long-distance fan cheers on Ramblers
Loyola Academy's Joe Joyce and Dallas Jesuit's Carson Buell collide during the Global Ireland Football Tournament in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday. Stephen McCarthy
Updated: September 7, 2012 10:14PM
When Loyola’s football team went to Dublin last week to play Texas power Dallas Jesuit, one of the Ramblers’ biggest fans stayed home. Or at least one of the biggest fans of Peter Pujals, Loyola’s senior quarterback.
Pujals’ younger brother James, or J.C., as he’s known to his family, didn’t make the trip. But out of sight definitely wasn’t out of mind in this case, especially after the Ramblers dropped a tough 30-29 decision on Friday.
“When things aren’t going my way, I try to think of him,” Pujals said. “He really knows how to enjoy life.”
J.C. has Down syndrome, which perhaps gave Pujals a deeper appreciation of the mission of Misericordia this summer when the Ramblers visited the Chicago home to more than 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities.
“It was a a really great experience,” Pujals said. “I know a lot of the kids really liked it.”
The Ramblers showed the Misericordia residents what they do in a typical practice and, though originally intended as a one-off event, it turned into something more.
When Loyola opened its season two weeks ago at home against Simeon, the Rambler varsity players came onto the field before the game accompanied by Misericordia residents. It was a touching moment and a reminder of high school football’s place in the grand scheme of things.
While the stakes seem large – especially at the high level at which Loyola competes – it’s still just a game. And hopefully, it’s a way for players and fans alike to enjoy a few weekend hours without forgetting about what’s really important in life.
“I’ve been around a lot of people with disabilities all the time,” Pujals said. “Every single time, it’s refreshing. It helps, you know – I think, they can’t play football. It kind of drives me in a way. They can’t play, but they’re still so happy in what they do.
“It also puts things in perspective.”
Loyola coach John Holecek wants to continue the partnership.
“It’s great for both [sides],” he said. “They really enjoy it. Our kids realize so many good things happen from it. It really puts things in place.”
Like his brother, J.C. has been involved in a variety of sports, ranging from Special Olympics to basketball to soccer. But he’s obviously a big football fan, thanks to Peter’s success with the Ramblers.
“He knows a lot about football, he knows when I am on the field,” Pujals said.
And J.C. provides inspiration for his older brother, both with his cheers on Saturday afternoons and just by his daily presence.
“I feel really fortunate to have my abilities,” Pujals said. “I want to fulfill my potential.”
And he wants to make his biggest fan proud.