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After long fight, OP teen dresses for first game

Posted at 11:25 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 14:09:12-04

Nothing makes him happier than playing football and Friday night, a teen from Orchard Park, got his wish.

“I really just wanted to play football. That's all I wanted to do.” said Jacob Kohler.

But that was very much in question over the summer. The fifth-year Orchard Park senior lives with autism and, according to Section VI and state high school athletics, he was no longer eligible to play sports.

During his freshman year, Kohler’s autism was making his academics and development difficult. He would need an extra year to graduate. Since a medical issue caused him to need an extra year, there is a rule in place allowing an extra year of eligibility. It was only given to Kohler after an appeal that went to the commissioner of the State Education Department.

Thursday, he got the good news. He could play.

“Nothing has had more of a positive impact on me in my life than football has been, honestly.  In terms of the social aspect and in terms of being healthy and being physical, nothing has helped me more," said Kohler.

People from around the world cheered Jacob on with an online petition. Friday night, people got a chance to cheer him on in person.

“I always see him working hard with his dad and anyone he can find just working his butt off,” said Nicole Legler, an Orchard Park graduate.

“He puts the work in. He goes and works out all the time. He's always competing he's trying his best. He's one of the hardest working I people know,” said Jack Phillips, an Orchard Park senior.

After a month of uncertainty and appeals, Jacob Kohler got to dress and be a part of his football team, the only thing he wanted.