HERSHEY — Bryton Barr had never been more popular in his life.
Surrounded by grinning children and well-wishers seeking autographs and pictures after Saturday’s Big 33 Football Classic, the former Mechanicsburg linebacker did his best to meet every request in the wake of Pennsylvania’s 24-21 overtime loss to Ohio.
But when a blonde-haired little girl in a blue Pennsylvania cheerleader uniform yelled his name and ran toward him, everyone else around seemed to be an afterthought as Barr dropped to one knee to meet the girl, 9-year-old Katie Costello, with a hug.
The two were paired together through the Big 33’s Buddy Program, which unites Big 33 players, coaches and cheerleaders with a special-needs child. The buddies spend time together on and off the field during the week leading up to the game, and many keeps those bonds beyond that Saturday night.
For Barr and Costello, though, the embrace meant a little more.
For the last four years, the pair have shared that same moment after every Mechanicsburg football game. Katie, daughter of Mechanicsburg assistant coach Jeff Costello, would seek out Bryton, win or lose, and present that infectious smile that would sweeten the feel of a win or help soften the blow of a loss.
Having Katie there after Saturday’s loss, the last of his high school career, helped Barr put things into perspective.
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