Campbell student with special needs makes history, scores touchdown during football game

"It felt awesome. Football is part of my blood," said Jason Kobara, known at school as the senior with the cowboy boots and hat.

Luz Pena Image
Thursday, November 3, 2022
SB student with special needs scores historic touchdown during game
A high school student in Campbell with special needs made history as he scored a touchdown during a football game.

CAMPBELL, Calif. (KGO) -- A Campbell high school student with special needs is inspiring a community of students with disabilities.

Jason Kobara scored a touchdown during his high school's football game. ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena has the stunning story of how he is now opening doors for others to believe in their dreams.

It's senior night at Del Mar High School and all eyes are on number 22. The play he's about to make, has been a year in the making.

Coach Robert Chapman: "Are you excited?

Jason Kobara: "Yeah and a little nervous."

Coach Robert Chapman: "Nah you are going to be fine."

As Jason shakes off his nerves by jumping up and down, his mom, dad and brother wait anxiously on the stands.

On the upper bleachers, his teachers and classmates hold a sign that reads "Go Jason."

MORE: This DJ with autism is inspiring others through his music

"He woke up this morning, jumped out of bed and said game day!" said Tracey Kobara, Jason's mom.

Jason runs to his spot on the field. His teammates make room for the play. The opposing team is ready.

"Hey, I will protect you. Okay!," yells one of his teammates.

The crowd gets on their feet. Phones are out on record mode. The band plays louder. This is the moment this school has been waiting for. Their secret weapon is out. His name is Jason Kobara, number 22.

To understand the significance of this play, we need to know Jason and the process he went through to get here. It all started outside of room 51. One of the classrooms for special ed. students at Del Mar High school.

Luz Pena: "What is the backstory? How did you find out that Jason wanted to play football?"

Eric Greer: "We go for a walk as a class every day. Jason and I talk about the 49rs and George Kittle and Jason expressed to me, 'Hey Mr. Eric, I'm really good at football. I throw the ball well and I'm very fast.'"

Eric Greer is Jason's aid. After class, they set aside time to play catch. During one of those moments, Jason said he wanted to play for his high school's football team.

VIDEO: Long Island teen gives children with autism the opportunity to volunteer by tie-dying joggers

17-year-old Emma Klein created 'Joggers for Juniors' to give children with special needs a platform to give back -- starting out with tie-dying joggers for donations.

"That competitiveness in me. I said yeah we can do this!" said Eric Greer.

Turns out, Eric is a former college athlete. He played football for Humboldt State. He made a call to the football coach at Del Mar High school.

"Coach Chapman, I let him know. Hey, I have an athlete here who is a senior this year and he wants to be a part of the team. What are your thoughts? He was just all about it," said Eric Greer and added, "I was able to get a hold of a helmet from the athletic director and I had some old pads from when I played and we were able to piece together a uniform."

With a team of action figures, Eric taught Jason the basics.

(Eric) "Who are they? (Jason) Lineman. Quarterback. The fullback and me. (Eric) What is the quarterback going to do? (Jason) Hand me the football. (Eric) What is he going to do? (Jason) He is going to block and I'm going to hit the touchdown."

Jason chose the superhero with an innate ability - speed. A super power that is needed on the football field.

"Flash is fast like me," said Jason.

Then they moved to the white board and began practicing a play that "maybe" Jason would get to do on the field one day.

MORE: Senior with cerebral palsy scores 80-yard touchdown

Months later, it was time to take the classroom experience to the field. Jason was welcomed into the team and chose number 22, his favorite number. Athletes he had seen from afar for years became his friends.

"We work with the offense. We work with the receivers and the running backs. We make sure we are there for warm ups and all the drills. Jason is always a part of every little bit of practice," said Eric Greer.

When he got home, Jason didn't stop. He drew inspiration from the team he grew up watching.

Luz Pena: "What is your favorite team?"

Jason Kobara: "The 49rs."

Luz Pena: "Favorite player?"

Jason Kobara: "George Kittle."

Luz Pena: "Why?"

Jason Kobara: "Because he runs fast."

VIDEO: 49ers coach, players volunteer at football camp for athletes with Down Syndrome

It didn't take long for students at Del Mar High school to notice the new member of the football team. The senior with cowboy boots and the hat.

"My cowboy hat is my look," said Jason.

After months of practice, Jason and Eric got the call. Jason would get to play during senior night.

"I think about winning," said Jason.

Luz Pena: "Is that all you think about?"

Jason Kobara: "Yeah!"

Even though Jason doesn't know it, his hard work would open doors for other students with special needs.

"I think this is a good sign especially for our program. If Jason can do it, any of our students can do it," said Larry Lopez, Del Mar High School's principal

MORE: Warriors' Draymond Green, former college teammate hold Autism Awareness basketball camp

On game day, Jason switched his cowboy boots for cleats. Eric helped him gear up and reminded him they are no different. Eric was born with multiple disabilities too and that didn't stop him from playing football. One of those challenges surfaced in the locker room.

"Mr. Eric is a bit dyslexic today and that is okay," said Eric Greer.

On Jason's left arm - a drawing of the play.

"It's very rewarding. I like to see how excited and how happy Jason gets when he succeeds on the football field. He doesn't bat an eye when he tells you hey I work hard. He does work hard," said Eric Greer.

Luz Pena: "What are you hoping Jason takes out of this experience?"

Eric Greer: "I hope that he understands that it's great to work with a team. It's important to work with other people. Being able to do that successfully is something that you have to do not just in school, not just on the football field, but you need to do that in life."

Locking arms with his teammates, Jason walks to the field. The athletes on the team have taught him more than football -this group showed him that unity is more powerful than a learning challenge.

"You're going to get the touch down! We are going to celebrate. Hey! You are going to hit that alright," said Jason's teammates.

VIDEO: This Cheerleader With Down Syndrome Lets Nothing Stop Her

Cheerleader with Down syndrome thriving in the San Fernando Valley.

After an hour on the sidelines, Jason stepped into the field for the play. His teammates and classmates on the bleachers shouted "Go Jason!"

On the field, one of the Del Mar football players yelled to Jason, "Hey I will protect you. Okay!"

Jason ran to the end zone and the crowd erupted. After getting the touchdown, his teammates surrounded him and began to shout: "Let's go!"

His coach got emotional.

"He has been out here every day working and to be able to let him have the opportunity to do that - it was awesome, it was awesome. I'm proud of him," said Robert Chapman, Del Mar High School football coach, after Jason's play.

Jason's dad still in awe.

MORE: Baking program helps autistic young adults with job, social skills

"I didn't think this would ever happen," said Steve Kobara, "He was born premature and he had a hard time learning. I didn't think this was possible but they really helped him."

And then there's Eric, Jason's aid. Eric went beyond his job duties to make Jason's dream a reality.

In his voice, you can hear it - the sound of victory as he yelled "Yeah, Jason!" as Jason ran to the end zone.

That night, Jason learned what persistence and overcoming looks like. After all, Jason did choose the right super hero because his speed was undeniable.

"Way to go FLASH! How do you feel? Good. I told you they'll have your back," said Eric to Jason.

Jason made history as the first student with special needs to play football in this school. Del Mar High School is retiring his jersey. Now, he doesn't need action figures. He became the real-size super hero for an entire community.

"It felt awesome. Football is part of my blood," said Jason Kobara.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live