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How Matthew Judon's pregame tradition made Patriots fan's first NFL game special

Nolan Urick finally had a chance to attend his first NFL game to see his favorite team play. Without knowing it, New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon gave him the experience of a lifetime.

Nolan Urick.PDC

New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon has a new pregame ritual of sorts.

Since the start of preseason, he's made it a point to get the crowd involved, tossing a football around with fans in the stands to get the juices flowing.

Judon likely has no idea what it means for those on the receiving end of his passes, though. Especially someone like Nolan Urick.

"He just was so excited and just had to tell me all about catching that pass from him," said Lisa Urick, his mother. That made his whole night."

Nolan is a 31-year-old autistic man from Belt, Montana who also happens to be a massive Patriots fan.

He's unable to drive, and his parents both work full-time, so attending an NFL game had never been an option for him until August, when his former football coach gifted him two tickets to New England's third preseason game against the Raiders in Las Vegas.

"Sometime after 2008 I had the idea that I'd become a New England fan and I've been supporting that team ever since," Nolan said. "We got to the stadium about three hours early and got to see warm-ups for most of the New England Players like Jalen Mills, Devin McCourty, and Matt Judon."

It may have been his first time at a football game, but Nolan and his father, Matt, were in the right place at the right time to enjoy the experience of a lifetime: catching one of Judon's warmup passes.

"He could tell you just about any stat of most of the players, where they went to college, what round they were drafted in. He's just so knowledgeable about all of that," Lisa said.

"He's the only Patriots fan in the family and he's been one for as long as I can remember. He stayed true to the Patriots and that's his team."

Nolan played a number of sports growing up but always gravitated to football.

He participates in basketball, soccer, and track in the Special Olympics, and played kicker for his high school football team. Even after his graduation in 2010, he stuck around the Belt Huskies as a squad manager, giving him a sense of purpose and normalcy.

Playing catch with Judon at Allegiant Stadium was the latest happy memory the game of football has given Nolan, but probably not the last.

"It's huge," Lisa said.

"It's really important because when Nolan was younger, he really never did communicate very well with other people. His communication skills weren't really developed yet. But the more he was around people in school and in sports that definitely helped him develop. He's just been thriving."

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