If you want a Christmas story, here is one.
Archer Hadley is a special little boy. His bright eyes and fresh 5-year-old smile shines through discomfort and pain. His speech struggles to make words and sentences as he grows up against some pretty tough odds. He is suffering from a moderate form of cerebral palsy.
He spent last summer in rehabilitation at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston and he will spend the next month there, including Christmas.
But Sunday, as a light rain fell on the Frank Denius Practice Fields, he had come to see his hero.
It has been almost a year now since Barbara Hadley watched as her little boy attend pre-school at Casis Elementary School in Austin. In the classes, he could sit and listen and learn, but when it came time for recess, he could only sit in his little blue and green plastic wagon and watch the other kids play.
"The teachers did everything they could for him," Archer's father, Ralph, said. "but he was too heavy for them to carry around all the time."
So while the other kids played, Archer sat in his wagon.
That was when Chris King, one of the veteran Longhorns managers, put Barbara Hadley in touch with Jean Bryant, who is in charge of UT's Life Skills program. Among her many responsibilities is coordinating much of the Longhorns' community service work. In the spring of 2001, she told Archer's story to junior special teams standout Beau Trahan. Longhorns football fans know Beau as one of the best special teams players in school history. They have seen him hold for kicks, block kicks, make tackles, cause fumbles and be much of the heart of the work of all of the special teams. The son of a head coach from Bay City, he has played defensive back and even filled in at quarterback because that is what his team needed him to do.
Archer Hadley needed something else from him.
While the other kids played games, Archer sat alone. That is until his new friend arrived.
Suddenly the little boy who couldn't walk was the hit of the school. When the kids played football or tag, Archer Hadley entered the game with his own personal transportation. He was riding on Trahan's shoulders.
"Beau became not only Archer's inspiration, he became his legs," Mr. Hadley said.
Twice a week, all spring, Beau came. This fall, Archer entered kindergarten, so his schedule changed, but Beau kept in touch. In fact, when Beau's folks came for the Longhorns football banquet on Friday night, they stayed with Ralph and Barbara Hadley.
With the help of a walker, Archer can walk a little now and he can tell you what happens when Beau runs down the field on kick coverage.
"They go 'boom!'" he says with exuberance.
At the banquet honoring the Longhorns, many awards were handed out. It came as no surprise to his teammates that Trahan was given the Coca- Cola Community Service Award. It is a spiffy shiny trophy in the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle. It was a deserved honor and one that was appreciated. Players have a chance to reflect on awards like that, and often, trophies like that are prominently displayed in an office or a den at home for years to come.
This one will not, at least not for Beau Trahan because on Saturday morning, he went to the Hadley's home to see Archer and gave him the trophy.
They say Angels come in many shapes and sizes and arrive at a time when you need them the most. Some are bigger and stronger and run faster than others, but each in their own way touch a life with a rustle of a wing. It is perfect when they touch each other.