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John’s Journal: The Most Important Play Of 2020

LeRoy-Ostrander’s Brody Larson Gets His Moment

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 2:14 PM

As we come to the football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium this week, the very first game on the three-day schedule offers a look back to the 2020 football season and one of the most inspirational stories you will ever read.

I wrote last November about Brody Larson, who was then a senior at LeRoy-Ostrander. At 4 feet, 4 inches tall, 86 pounds and having Hurler Syndrome, Brody was never able to become a football player … until a special occasion on Senior Night last year.

Brody has graduated and his dad, Kyle Stern, remains a member of the Cardinals coaching staff. The Cardinals will meet Kittson County Central in the first of 14 state semifinals – with a start time of 11:30 a.m. Thursday – and Brody will be there as he continues to serve as a team manager.

As I wrote last year after Brody’s big night, “This was a dream come true, as well as a testament to friendship, sportsmanship and inclusion. It was the absolute best of high school activities.

Here’s that story, originally posted on Nov. 3, 2020…

Brody Larson, who stands 4 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 86 pounds, is the biggest name in Minnesota high school football this season after scoring the most important touchdown of the year.

The 18-year-old senior at LeRoy-Ostrander, who is as big of a sports fan as you will ever meet, put on real football gear for the first time last week. For Friday’s Senior Night home game against Houston, Brody pulled on his father’s well-worn No. 28 jersey from the 2003 LeRoy-Ostrander squad, was announced as a member of the Nine-Man team’s starting lineup and made lifelong memories with his teammates.

This was a dream come true, as well as a testament to friendship, sportsmanship and inclusion. It was the absolute best of high school activities.

Brody is small and had never been able to participate in sports because of Hurler Syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, Hurler syndrome can consist of skeletal deformities, coarse facial features, corneal clouding, hepatosplenomegaly, cardiac involvement, hearing loss and respiratory tract infections.

Brody is a survivor, an inspiration. And we need him, his teammates and their spirit and togetherness right now.

“In today’s world of negativity and all these things going on, I tell our boys all the time, ‘You’ve got to understand what we truly have. Brody got the short end of the straw,’ ” said LeRoy-Ostrander coach Trevor Carrier. “ ‘You’ve got to appreciate what you have and Brody epitomizes that.’ Everyone loves him. He makes you smile.”

In the days leading up to the game, the teams agreed to start the contest in a different way. The LeRoy-Ostrander Cardinals received the kickoff and returned it to the Houston Hurricanes’ 10-yard line before going out of bounds. From there, Brody took a handoff from quarterback Chase Johnson and ran untouched into the end zone; he also ran for the two-point conversion.

The Hurricanes then were given free rein to return the kickoff for a touchdown and two-point conversion. So the score was 8-8 when the competition began in earnest. The final score was Cardinals 62, Hurricanes 48, but that’s not what will be remembered years from now.

“It was pretty magical,” Carrier said.

“It was a tear-jerker, it was a bit emotional,” said Brody’s mom, Crystal Stern.

Brody had tears in his eyes as he took the field after the kickoff.

“I was running out there thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening right now,’ ” he said. “I was in the huddle, then standing back there (behind Chase), saying to myself, ‘I’m about to get the ball and score a touchdown with my team.’ ”

He scooted through the right side of the line, crossed the goal line, spiked the football between his legs and high-stepped. His teammates rushed to congratulate him and the Houston defenders applauded as fans cheered and those watching from their vehicles honked their horns. It was a spectacular scene, repeated on the two-point conversion.

Along with introducing LeRoy-Ostrander seniors Andrew Lohuis, George Bird, Isaac Collier, Brodi Nesler, Lucas Winfield, Jeremiah Weiss, Brody and their parents, the Senior Night pregame ceremony also acknowledged Houston’s seniors.

“That’s the least we could do for them,” Carrier said.

The plan moved forward after Brody filled the requirements for participation in MSHSL activities, including passing a required physical exam. Carrier, a 2003 Houston graduate, called Hurricanes coach Cody Hungerholt earlier in the week to describe what he had in mind and work out the details.

“It was awesome. Houston did a wonderful job,” Carrier said. “They jumped on board quickly and they thought it was a great thing. It was great sportsmanship and they didn’t have to do that. It was impressive.”

Kyle Stern, Brody’s dad and the Cardinals defensive coordinator, said, “Trevor pulled me in on Monday to tell me about it. I couldn’t say much at that moment. I was crying.”

Brody underwent a bone-marrow transplant at 14 months old. When he was 10, the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent Brody, his parents and three younger siblings to Disney World. Brody worked at the local grocery store, Main Street Market, but has stepped away during Covid-19 because he is at risk.

On Monday of game week, Brody was sitting in class when his teacher’s phone rang. The message: Have Brody come to Carrier’s fifth-grade classroom.

“He said, ‘Let’s go out in the hallway,’ ” Brody remembered. “He said to me, ‘You know what’s happening Friday, don’t you?’ ‘Yeah, it’s Senior Night, it’s a big night.’

“He said, ‘Since it’s Senior Night and you’re a senior, we want to do something special for you. We want to suit you up and have a wonderful memory for you.’ ”

On Wednesday they got Brody geared up. Shoulder pads, helmet, mouthguard, the works. Asked about a jersey, he knew that his dad still had his old jersey. Kyle was a student manager as a kid – just like Brody -- when the Cardinals reached the Metrodome and he played in the state semifinals at the Metrodome as a junior.

“He’s been on the sideline ever since he could be,” Kyle said of Brody. 

Crystal said waiting for game day may have been the hardest thing for her son.

“He was pretty excited and he couldn’t really wrap his head around anything else other than the fact that he needed to stay focused for Friday,” she said with a big smile. “The anticipation was killing him.”

After the game, Brody and his teammates followed tradition by going to Travel Lanes Bar & Grill, the local bowling alley, for pizza, then to Andrew Lohuis’ home for video games and other sorts of fun and camaraderie. Brody got home around 12:30 a.m. He was tired and sore but still walking on air.

Before kickoff, the Cardinals had shared one message with their newest teammate. Brody will never forget what his friends and classmates said.

“The boys were all saying, ‘We’re doing this for Brody, this is his night, let’s win this game for him.’ ”

The postgame statistics tell the story. The rushing portion of the recap included this: “Brody Larson 2-for-12, TD.”

That sentence right there -- Brody Larson 2-for-12, TD – well, that’s forever.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at 


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