By John Lauritsen

NORTHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — Another fall practice is underway at Carleton College, but before star wide receiver Zach Creighton joins his teammates on the field, he joins his number one fan, on the sidelines.

“Zach took it upon himself — saw a kid like Sam and said, ‘Hey, I want to make this kid feel included,'” Sam’s dad Terri Amundson said.

That didn’t happen at Carleton. It happened six years ago at Lakeville North High School.

Zach was a standout athlete when he met Sam, a special needs student, during his junior year. From the beginning, he knew he wanted to make Sam feel like he was a part of everything.

“Sam was really, really shy at the time.” Zach said. “So it was a lot of work to get him to open up, but once he did it was an incredible breakthrough.”

It was a breakthrough that turned into a special bond. When high-schoolers graduate and go off to college, friendships sometimes get left behind — but not in this case.

Zach went to Carleton College where he has become a stand-out on the Knights football team, but he’s made sure that Sam has been right there with him for this journey.

Twice a week, Sam shows up at practice. He helps with things like handing out water bottles. Then, on game day on Saturdays, he’s here again. As both Zach and Carleton’s biggest fan.

“You get an opportunity to make a connection and you never know where it’s going to take you,” Carleton head coach Bob Pagel said. “And obviously, this connection has taken those guys a long way and we’re fortunate to be a part of it, to be honest with you.”

Sam has formed friendships with Zach’s coaches and teammates too. And for Terrie, watching his son’s self-confidence grow by the day, means more than Zach will ever know.

“To see that, blows me away,” Terrie said. “I can’t find the words to be honest without breaking up just a little bit.”

“Treat them like anyone else. Let them into your life. Let them change you the way that you changed them,” Zach said. “The impact you can have is incredible, and it’s life-changing, and that goes both ways.”

Terrie said that Zach and Sam’s relationship goes beyond sports. Zach will call Sam and take him out to lunch sometimes. Zach has already accepted a job in the cities after he graduates, so he plans on seeing Sam even more.

John Lauritsen