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The high school gridiron's most inspiring player


12:56 AM, Nov. 05, 2012 EST

JACKSON, Ga. -- You likely have never heard of the 15 year old you're about to meet, but you'll remember his story.

Devon Berry's dream is both universal and deeply personal. He loves the sport of football, and he dreams to play it, but he faces circumstances that make such a dream very difficult.

Devon was born with cerebral palsy and, as a child, had nine surgeries on his legs. He currently cannot walk without a walker.

"I recognized that I couldn't walk [early on]," said Devon. "I could walk for like 10 seconds and back, but I couldn't walk completely straight, and my legs were weak."

"He didn't crawl, and he couldn't stand up," recalled his mother, Tonja Grier. "He wasn't taking steps, but he always trying to do something."

That ninth surgery, when Devon was 9 years old, was due to an infection in one of his legs. Doctors feared they would have to amputate.

"The doctors told me there was a good chance he wouldn't make it out of that surgery, because he had just been through so many of them," Tonja said.

In the waiting room before the operation, she said, "I told him how much I loved him, and how much he was a joy to me in my life. And he looked at me and he said, 'Momma, don't worry about it... because God's going in there with me, and he's gonna come out with me.'"

Devon made it out and recovered to the point where he has not needed any surgeries since. Having convinced his mom he would survive, he then began a much tougher task: convincing her to let him play football.

"I just kept begging her," he said. "Finally she just went to the director and asked him, and they gave me the green light."

Spend a day in practice, and you will be wowed by how much Devon enjoys it. He does push-ups while the others run; he jokes around and talks trash with his teammates. And he smiles through the whole thing.

"He could be down, he could be upset, and he could be angry, but he's not," Tonja said. "He's happy. Devon is a happy child."

He gets in the JV games for Jackson High School on a regular basis; every so often, the coach will even put him in a varsity game.

Almost every time, this inspiring young man is met with ovations from the crowd.

"I think his purpose in life is to be an encourager," his mom said. "Because you have to be encouraged -- you have to be inspired -- when you see him."

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