Warhorses make biggest fan's dream come true

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Eight-year-old Landon Cooper slips on his number 43 Owen Warhorse jersey at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School.

Some people don't believe that dreams come true. Try telling that to Landon Cooper.

On a rainy Thursday afternoon last week, the eight-year-old student at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School was sitting quietly in class when he got a surprise visit from his favorite football team. 

"It was a dream perfectly come true,” Landon, one of the biggest Owen High football fans in the Swannanoa Valley, said.

A recent assignment required students at the school, located at Carver Community Center in Black Mountain, to reach out to people they look up to. Landon, who loves football, reached out to the head coach of the Owen Warhorses. In the letter, Landon asked coach Nathan Padgett and the team if they would come to his school and practice with him. 

“I got the letter, and I was just so humbled,” Padgett said. “I immediately shared it with the team. The boys said ‘let’s go play football with him, coach.’” 

As Landon sat in class April 26 listening to his teacher, a bus carrying Padgett and about 20 Warhorses pulled up to the school. Exiting single file into the rain, the players walked into the school and stood on either side of a hallway near Landon's classroom. Padgett walked into the room.

“Hey, Landon,” he said to the stunned student. “I’m Coach Padgett, and I got your letter. I wanted to bring you a few things.”

Landon stood wide-eyed as Padgett handed him a football emblazoned with the Owen horseshoe. The coach put a maroon and white Warhorse hat on Landon's head and gave him a game-worn jersey, number 43. The boy was speechless.

“You said you wanted us to practice with you, so I have some guys out there ready to practice,” Padgett said, motioning toward the hall. “You want to go meet them?”

Owen football head coach Nathan Padgett brings Swannanoa Valley Montessori School student Landon Cooper into the hallway where the Warhorses surprise him with a visit on April 26.

Landon's jaw dropped as he walked out of his class and saw Owen players lining the walls of the hallway and sporting jerseys like the one he was wearing. The Warhorse players eagerly held their hands up as Landon walked between them, high-fiving each one.

When it seemed that things couldn’t get any better, they did - Padgett and the players asked Landon to go to the gym to play catch. His class joined in by sitting on the stage and watching him throw with Owen starting quarterback Audun Meyers.

Meyers, a junior, said the experience opened his eyes to just how much young kids can look up to the players on the high school team.

“I felt a lot of emotions when coach read us the letter from Landon,” he said. “Some of these kids wrote to superstars like Michael Jordan or LeBron James. And he wrote to us.”

Kristy Beaver, the elementary curriculum specialist at Swannanoa Valley Montessori, said the experience is one Landon will likely never forget. He deserves it, she said.  

“He is a kid who has the most amazing heart,” she said. “He’s probably one of the hardest working kids in this school.”

Owen head coach Nathan Padgett and the Warhorses visit eight-year-old Landon Cooper at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School on April 26.

Landon posed for pictures with Padgett and the Warhorses after playing catch for nearly an hour. After the team left the school, he was excited to talk about it. “I’m really thankful that they came here just to see me,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”

He wrote the letter hoping to find a “big brother,” he said, but instead, a whole team came to meet him. “Football is my dream sport,” he said. "I can't believe I got to play it with them."

He was surprised by the gifts Padgett and the team gave him. "I was so happy,” he said. 

When it came to picking a favorite thing about the day, it wasn’t anything tangible that he chose. “The best part was that they came to see me,” he said.