What I'm about to say may shock some sports fanatics, it may make some shake their heads, but for most of us it will be even more validation of why we love sports and how sports can make a huge impact in life. Believe it or not the impact from sports doesn't reside solely on the field, court, or on the ice rink, but resides in the hearts of sports fans around the world.

You don't need to go beyond the Sioux Empire to find such an individual who exemplifies phenomenal character in the world of sports. Instead head to Brookings South Dakota and there you will find former Jackrabbits quarterback Austin Sumner with a heartwarming story.

It all started with a family Jackrabbits - Nick Redmond, and his 3-year-old son Brodie - on November 22nd of last year. South Dakota State head football coach John Stiegelmeier presented on field passes to Nick and Brodie before the game against the University of South Dakota.

There Brodie was able to meet all of the players and after the game, when asked who he wanted to speak to without hesitation Brodie said Austin Sumner.

When Nick Brodie arrived at the locker room Sumner and his teammates where taking senior photos because they didn't know if Sumner would be back in a Jackrabbit uniform next year. Austin could have taken the picture, talked to teammates, and kept Brodie waiting but instead, Sumner stopped everything he was doing and told the seniors to hold on so he could spend time with Brodie.

The experience would be a highlight of any kids’ childhood and was certainly something both Nick and Brodie will never forget.

"Because of this my son asked Santa for an Austin Sumner fat head for Christmas," stated Nick Redmond.

Most players would leave it at that, as if checking "doing a good deed" off of their to-do list and on with their lives. That was not the case for Sumner.

Brodie and Austin didn't simply leave each other as mere acquaintances, but something much bigger.

The next year on Brodie's birthday the Redmond family received a phone call and to the sheer joy of Brodie, the voice on the other line belonged to Austin Sumner. On that very day, with that very phone call, a wonderful thing in the world of sports happened: an unbreakable bond formed between people of different families. A brotherly bond started that will be with Austin and Brodie for the rest of their lives.

That bond between Austin and Brodie continued to live and thrive and it seemed as though both were inseparable. The very next year Austin continued to show his commitment to his new found friend by surprising Brodie at his 4th birthday party. Just as a father or brother would, Austin was truly there for Brodie, singing him happy birthday, taking a picture with him, and even giving Brodie a present.

Austin and Brodie continued to stay in contact even when they weren't near each other as Brodie and Austin connected by phone countless times with countless conversations.

"To this day my son remembers all of what Austin did for him and continually asks to call Austin to play catch with him to this day," said Nick.

These days it's easy to let the self-centered arrogance, price tags, and mistaken passion for obsession overshadow the true greatness of sports. If we just take a step back, we can truly see all the great things sports can do.

Sports provides a way for people to come together for a common goal, to be a part of something bigger than any one individual, and better yet, a chance to be a part of a different type of family. Sporting events bring together massive amounts of people all for one cause. Aside from religious gatherings you'd be hard pressed to find any other event that can bring as many people together in one location like sporting events can.

Austin Sumner exemplifies all the good in sports and all the great outcomes that are possible because of sports.

Austin Sumner has reminded us all of the true meaning behind sports, and the powerfully positive outcomes that can arise. Sports is an excellent conduit for life lessons and as Sumner proved, an even better conduit for forming a brotherly bond and making a kid's childhood, like Brodie's, one they will never forget.

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