Story contributed by Michael Jennings
There’s something spectacular about number 97 of the Benjamin E. Mays High School varsity football team.
Senior Elijah Byner is a natural soccer-style kicker, according to special education teacher Michael Jennings. “With an affinity for soccer, Elijah would always talk to me about his love for the game; even asking me to buy him a soccer ball.”
So, when Elijah expressed an interest in kicking for the Raiders football team, Jennings and Elijah’s classroom teacher Jason Anderson contacted head coach Niketa Battle, who granted a tryout.
Elijah, who is on the autism spectrum, impressed the coaches and earned his spot as team kicker. Throughout the season, he handled all kicking duties (kick-offs and place kicking) and became a favorite among his teammates and coaches.
“Elijah has definitely made a dramatic impact on the team this season, as he has successfully converted 25/28 (90 percent) of his extra points attempts,” said Coach Battle. “As a matter of fact, Elijah is the best addition to the team this year because he is automatic. He is also the leading candidate for Offensive Player of Year because of his consistent performance.”
Elijah won player of the game twice this season.
“I am grateful to Coach Battle for the opportunity to play football and contribute to the team’s success and allowing me to befriend my teammates,” Elijah said.
Upon graduating in May 2021, Elijah would love to kick on the collegiate level and to continue playing soccer in his spare time. His immediate plans include entering the workforce.