Whether it’s cracking jokes with players, talking football like an on-air analyst or pulling pranks on coaches, 17-year old Lambert High School student Charlie Mabry finds ways to make the day for Lambert football players—every day.
One of his best buds on the team, offensive lineman Sean Bailey, returned the favor Tuesday evening when he surprised Charlie, wheelchair bound with muscular dystrophy, at his home in Suwanee with an authentic, on-field jersey of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, signed by Manning himself.
Manning is one of Charlie’s favorite players on his favorite NFL team. Bailey knew of Charlie’s allegiance because he too cheered for the Giants since he lived just north of Harlem until the first grade. Charlie is a Giants fan like his father, Kurt, who grew up in the New York area before playing football at the University of Florida.
“We go to school together, we always talk about the Giants,” Bailey said. “I remember when I was little I used to write all of the players, they would sign stuff and send it back. I thought it would be cool to write something for Charlie. I got my mail and had a legit autographed jersey from Eli. I couldn’t believe it. It was sweet, and I actually had to keep it for two weeks. I’m really glad I made his day today.”
“I was extremely surprised,” Charlie said. “I didn’t know that people were thinking about me like that, and how much I like football and how much I like the Giants. It’s hard to believe.”
“My Dad made me start liking football because he started coaching at Sharon Springs and then I became interested and started watching. Now it’s my favorite sport,” Charlie said. “I like the Giants, and Florida and Georgia Tech.”
Charlie and Sean’s fate is almost hard to believe too.
Bailey has committed to the University of Cincinnati to play football—it was his only Division I offer as of Saturday, and he took it on the spot.
Charlie visits Columbus, Ohio, just a few hours north of Cincinnati, every six months for special treatment for his muscular dystrophy that he’s dealt with since being diagnosed at 18 months old. He and his parents pass through Cincinnati on the tail end of their long commutes to treatment.
However, Bailey has a visit with Florida in a couple of weeks, which is good news for Charlie—he’d rather cheer for his favorite player on his favorite college team.
When asked if he’d root for the Bearcats if Bailey’s commitment sticks, Charlie joked: “Eh, maybe.” Nevertheless, the coincidental proximity could offer opportunities for Charlie and Sean to take their next steps in their journeys together.
Charlie’s mother, Jennifer, was just as shocked with the gesture.
“For Sean to write that (to Manning), I had no idea,” she said. “They’ve all got a connection, he and his friends, that is really amazing.”
When Charlie isn’t in class, he’s in and out of the football offices and practice areas. Justin Cox, the team’s quarterback coach, also is one of Charlie’s helpers during school days.
“He meets with the team every morning. Before class he always goes in and hangs out with the team,” Kurt said.
“He’s always pulling pranks on coaches,” Bailey said. “He has this little thing on his phone that can turn the projector off, so they’ll be going over a play or something and he’ll just turn it off.”