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Inside the coolest moment of the 2023 Washington high school football season

Wyatt Bureau, an equipment manager with Down syndrome at Tahoma High School, produced a memory of a lifetime - for many - against Federal Way

In many ways, Wyatt Bureau carries himself like an oldest sibling in a family.

The senior at Tahoma High School takes his responsibility as equipment manager for three varsity sports - football, boys basketball and baseball - very seriously. In good times and bad, the teenager is uplifting and supportive of others. And after graduation, he has long-term career plans.

Bureau also faces other daily challenges - he was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that stunts a person's intellectual, emotional and physical development. 

And yet, around the Bears' football team, Bureau is a rock star - a beacon of unbridled daily energy and joy.

"He is absolutely one of us," second-year Tahoma football coach Zachary Myers said. "And these kids love on him like they love each other."

On Friday night, the program gave its popular team member the spotlight on his own by allowing him to suit up and be featured on one staged play against Federal Way - a weaving-through-traffic 40-yard touchdown carry, followed by an impromptu end-zone dance celebration with players from both squads.

"Oh my God - awesome!" said Bureau, who is speech-challenged, but had no problem expressing his feelings about his big moment.

A moment that was years in the making.

Tahoma equipment manager Wyatt Bureau, who has Down syndrome, scores staged touchdown against Federal Way.

Ever since he was little, Wyatt always had a sports ball in his hand, said Allison Bureau, his mother.

"We were told to always help him work on his coordination," Allison said. "We worked with him throwing a ball. And he took to sports (youth T-ball, basketball through Special Olympics) really quickly."

When Wyatt arrived at Tahoma, because of his disability, his family and the school district sought out alternative pathways for him to graduate.

After his parents saw the nationally-acclaimed video of David Saville, a Clemson football equipment manager with Down syndrome, they asked the district to approve a long-term, school-credit plan for their son to serve in a similar capacity for Tahoma sports teams.  

"We wanted this for him because, when you have a kid with a disability, you know at some point (at school) kids are not going to include him," Allison said. "We wanted him to be with his peers."

With Tahoma football, Wyatt - always accompanied by a paraprofessional educator - carries equipment to and from practice. He runs the stadium scoreboard clock during live periods. And afterward, he does laundry and neatly hangs the jerseys in the locker room on game days.

On game nights, not only does he patrol the sidelines giving players high-fives and fist bumps, he gets in line and does warm-up jumping jacks with the team.

"When he's not around, it just feels bizarre," Myers said.

Over the past year, Myers began thinking of ways to more prominently include Wyatt in the team's plans, including inviting him to the four-day Central Washington University team camp last summer.

Tahoma equipment manager Wyatt Bureau, who has Down syndrome, scores staged touchdown against Federal Way.

Myers also had another idea: Give Wyatt his touchdown-scoring moment.

It was at the PLU Football 11-v-11 Passing Tournament last June where Myers approached Federal Way coach Marcus "Izzy" Yzaguirre about giving the teenager that moment when the two teams squared off in 4A NPSL action in October.

"We've always wanted him to have the same experience as any kid who is not impacted in the way he is," Myers said.

In the days leading up to the game, coaches began giving Wyatt reps at running back, running the same play in practice.

"He had some different touchdown dance every time," said Myers, laughing.

One of the special moments came at a team meeting when players presented Wyatt, who had just turned 18, with his own jersey - and his name on the back of it.

"He was beyond excited. He knew he had his helmet, his pads and the whole uniform," Allison said. "He would say, 'Me play!' He knew he was going to play."

The build-up to Tahoma's home game Friday was unlike what many had seen in years. The grandstands were packed, including Wyatt's parents, Joe and Allison, as well as family from eastern Washington, with spectators.

Along the sideline, Wyatt's sister, Shalee, a ninth grader, and the Bears' volleyball team stood with signs and cheers for the teenager.

Tahoma equipment manager Wyatt Bureau, who has Down syndrome, scores staged touchdown against Federal Way.

On the other side 15 minutes before the game, Yzaguirre huddled his Federal Way players up and explained what was about to happen. That is when one of his players - sophomore Zamarie Tellez - got fired up to make the moment special for Wyatt, since he also has a brother with a disability (autism).

A few minutes later - before kickoff to the varsity game - the starting Tahoma offense and Federal Way defense lined up for the scripted play. Nate Ketter took the snap and handed it off to Wyatt, who saw daylight was scooted his way down the field for a touchdown.

As soon as Wyatt crossed the goal-line, he put his hands on his hip and broke out in a celebratory dance with other surrounding players.

"They were going wild like we won the Super Bowl," said Myers, who admitted he teared up as the play was going on.

"It was a moment that was way, way bigger than football."

This Friday, Wyatt will again be celebrated  - on "Senior Night" - then finish up his time with the team for the rest of the fall before shifting to final seasons with Tahoma basketball and baseball.

After graduation, Wyatt will enter the district's three-year transition program to work on adult life-building skills. He is also hopeful to finalize an internship with a college or professional football team.

One thing is for certain, nobody around Tahoma football will forget Wyatt - or his special night - anytime soon.

"He is like any kid - he can be upset sometimes, but he snaps out of it quickly," Allison said. "But for the most part, he is an easy-going kid with the biggest heart. He loves everybody. He has the greatest smile - and the kids love his hugs."

Tahoma equipment manager Wyatt Bureau, who has Down syndrome, scores staged touchdown against Federal Way.

(All photo and video content courtesy of Allison Bureau)