91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fighting for football: one Down Syndrome athlete's story


Football practice starts up at high schools across the state this week. But for one athlete's family, the biggest day of the season is tomorrow.

That's when the Michigan High School Athletic Association will decide whether Eric Dompierre can play football his senior year. Dompierre has Down Syndrome, but that hasn't kept him from playing with Ishpeming High's team the last three years. Now nineteen, Dompierre is too old to be eligible for the team.

Dean Dompierre is his father. He says they fought for years first to create an age waiver, and now to win one for Eric. "There've been tens of thousands of people who've helped us, either signing the online petition or by writing letters. So we're at this point you know kinda nervous actually, hoping that the executive committee does the right there here and gives Eric a waiver."

Yet Eric says he's not nervous about the ruling. "My family is, but I'm not. Because I think they will let me play, since I've been practicing really hard."

Eric’s campaign has gotten national media attention, and he’s something of a local celebrity in town. “They say like, how’s the team doing? And how good I am when I kick field goals, when I make one.”

His dad says it’s been a long fight, but worth it. “He was kinda counting on me to do what needed to be done in order to allow him to play his senior year. And I really didn’t want to disappoint him.”

To qualify for an age waiver, students must have a disability that effects them physically and mentally.

The family should get a decision later this week.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.