Petal football players, student battling Batten Disease bond through games off field

Petal football players, student battling Batten Disease bond through games off field
Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook
(Source: WDAM Staff)
(Source: WDAM Staff)
(Source: WDAM Staff)
(Source: WDAM Staff)

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - A Petal High School student started life as a normal boy with a love for sports, but a Batten Disease diagnosis slowly drains him of life day by day.

A group of football players not only make wins in front of Friday night lights, but they have games off the field with Jacoby Bergeron.

Those games give him fleeting feelings of normalcy and give them a deeper appreciation for life.

Full of excitement, senior year for Petal seniors is the end of a chapter, filled with unforgettable moments and memories.

"I wanted to make sure that their senior year would be as exciting as another senior's year would be," said Karen John, a Special Education teacher.

For students like Jacoby, that could be difficult. Battling an extremely rare and deadly disease, the life ahead of him doesn't have any games.

That is, except for the games with the football players.

"They just immediately had a connection and a bond with them," John said.

"It gets him up and active and moving and having fun with the guys who could do what he wants to do," said Stephen Huderson, a Petal senior.

Petal Panthers make touchdowns with a bright-eyed teammate who changes their outlook on life.

"It humbles all of us and helped us play harder on Friday," said Chris Monroe, a Petal senior.

"I’ve been here, and it just made me a different person," said Xavier Yancy, a Petal senior.

It turned around Yancy's attitude of frustration with his standing as a prospect. His problems became minimized after walking with Jacoby and witnessing his battle.

"When they are down, it puts us down," Yancy said.

It strengthened Huderson's appreciation for the opportunities before him. His talents take him to Tulane.

"It makes me not just go through the motions in life," Huderson said.

"They have legs, but they can't do what we can do, so that makes me go harder at what I do," Yancy said.

Jacoby is no longer verbal, but his laughter speaks volumes. Every pass from his teammates gives him the joy of feeling normal and gives them a greater value on the gift of life.

"It's an example of how we shouldn't take our talents for granted," Monroe said.

We were not able to interview Jacoby, but his mother expressed his feelings for him. "He is so in love with school because he loves interaction with these young men. They give selflessly, so that he does have the opportunity to feel normal. If it weren't for people like them no he wouldn't have this feeling."