By Rob Adams
When 10-year-old Ben McFadden went to Caren’s Cos Cobber restaurant earlier this month, he found out that something special was waiting for him on the menu.
McFadden, a big football fan who can be described as the number one supporter of Greenwich High School’s gridiron team, had been given a trip to see his favorite professional football team: the Seattle Seahawks.
Ben has achondroplasia, which is a form of dwarfism, but that doesn’t stop his indomitable spirit or passion for both the Cardinals and Seahawks. His trip, arranged by Make-A-Wish Connecticut, would take him and his family to the Pacific Northwest to visit with head coach Pete Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson, and other member of the team that won Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 in New Jersey.
“We got out there on Monday,” Ben’s father, Drew said. “They had gifts in the lockers and the stadium gave us a big greeting.”
Drew and Ben were accompanied by Ben’s mother Barbara and his eight-year-old brother Max. Besides the special welcome, the family felt like they were part of the Seahawks. Ben was allowed to run onto the football field with a special introduction, along with meeting the cheerleaders as well as a few legends of Seattle football.
Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg – two former Seahawks quarterbacks – were among those who greeted the McFadden’s. In one picture, Zorn, the teams’ starter for their inaugural season in 1976, is seen pointing out some of the names on the Ring of Honor at Century Link Field. Zorn is one of 11 names currently in the Ring.
Ben was especially excited to meet the current Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson. At first, Drew McFadden noticed his son was struggling to find words to say to Wilson and some of his teammates.
“He was in shock at first, but he was able to have a conversation with these guys,” he said.
Finally, Ben’s ability to chat about all things football kicked in.
“I told Russell Wilson that I watch the Kids Sports Awards on ESPN, and I love watching him host that,” Ben said.
Wilson wasn’t the only current player that Ben visited.
“He got one-on-one time with Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor,” he said, noting two members of Seattle’s famed “Legion of Boom” defense. “Tyler Lockett gave Ben a pair of gloves.
“He feels like he’s a part of the time,” Drew added.
The team allowed Ben and the McFadden family to stay at a walkthrough practice, which is otherwise closed to the public.
In a video posted on social media, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll kneels down with his arm around Ben, who is wearing a Seahawks jersey with a number one on it. The pride on Ben’s face and the smile he shows as he nods are, frankly, priceless.
“Ben and I are getting ready for a big game coming up,” Carroll says in the video. “We want to wish the best to the Greenwich Cardinals and Coach Marinelli. Ben’s got us all fired up out here. Go Cardinals.”
Ben was overwhelmed with the experience.
“It felt really good and really awesome,” he said. “Coach Carroll is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
Other events included an ice cream social, and being on the field before the the Seahawks’ preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. Ben also painted part of the logo on the field.
It should be noted that Russell Wilson threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-13 win.
Ben’s main football team – the Big Red of Greenwich high – was thrilled to see their inspirational leader have such a great experience.
“I was so happy for him, said Henry Saleeby, one of the Cardinals’ 2017 captains. “It’s good to know that Ben is having that experience.”
Saleeby added that Ben helps the Cardinals get through good and bad times.
“He’s made so many things great for us,” he said.
Asked about seeing the video with Coach Carroll, Saleeby said he wasn’t surprised.
“Hearing that from Coach Carroll is so good”, he said. “It’s the effect that Ben has everyone.
“He’s an amazing kid. He brings so much to the table.”
Back in Greenwich, Ben and his family can now get ready for the start of high school football season. Ben will be on the sideline to watch the Cardinals in action, with the first game set for Sep. 9. Ben’s goal is simple.
“Us winning every single game, including states,” he said.
A lifetime of memories were made in Seattle, with thanks given to Make-A-Wish Connecticut, Caren’s Cos Cobber, Coach Marinelli and the Cardinals, along with friends and family.
“What a trip,” Drew McFadden said. “It’s something I’ll remember forever.”