Nineteen-year-old Eric Dompierre no longer has to worry about the words "eligibility," "age limit," or "proposals," as the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) approved a waiver that allows him to play sports in his senior year.
We asked Eric, "When your dad told you you were allowed to play, what went through your head?"
He responded, "That everybody was going to look up to me for making extra points and threes. I feel like a part of a team because the team is working hard for me to go on the field to kick extra points."
Prior to the waiver, Eric, who has Down Syndrome, wasn't allowed to play sports in his senior year because he exceeded the age limit. He's been practicing with the Ishpeming football team all week, but Friday's the first day he's officially an eligible Hematite.
His dad, Dean Dompierre, has been the backbone behind it all, creating an online petition that gained almost 95,000 signatures and even speaking in front of the Senate Education Committee in Lansing.
"It's been a long two-and-a-half years, and there were a lot of times when we didn't think we would get to this day. Even last December, we had pretty much given up on the fact that Eric would be able to play. We were just pushing for other kids to play. So, really, it seems to us to just be a miracle that so many people came together to help Eric get to play this year. We couldn't be happier, and we couldn't be more thankful," said Dean Dompierre.
Even with the thrill of eligibility, the attention Eric is getting on the Internet is just as exciting for the athlete.
"I got excited because when I first found out I was going to play, I put it on Facebook, and everyone liked it," Eric said.
When we first met Eric, all he wanted was a chance to play, and with the MHSAA's new waiver policy, he's giving kids all around Michigan that same opportunity. Now, the next thing on Dean and Eric's agenda is getting that waiver policy to pass country-wide.
"We're especially happy that we found out Eric is not the only student in Michigan to get a waiver for this year, so we're especially happy for that. We're hoping that other states across the nation that still exclude kids like this from their high school programs will take Michigan's lead and change their minds as well," Dean said.
As for Eric, the only thing he has to worry about now is earning the Hematites a few extra points in their upcoming football and basketball seasons.