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Local teen with autism gets a chance to show off new football skills before Sunday's game thanks to Ocean Spray

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Patrick Devlin may be new to football, but he already made his debut on an NFL field. Patrick was one of three Patriots fans to attempt a field goal as part of Ocean Spray's pregame contest at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 24, and the moment was especially memorable for Patrick and his mother, Agatha Clancy.

This fall, Patrick spent his days playing football on the Newton Mustangs, and as a seventh grader, this is the first time he has been part of a "typical" sports team. Patrick has autism, and until the age of 3 he was non-verbal. After participating in Special Olympics boxing, Patrick's coach Eric Busa let Patrick and his mom know that he also coaches a youth football team.

"We had a quick conversation, because he has autism, if he thought it was possible that he could play," Agatha said. "He’s never played a typical sport before. This was his first typical sport and it just went better than we ever thought it would be."

For Patrick, why he loves the game is an easy answer. "It's my favorite sport," he said.

Despite his diagnosis, Agatha said Patrick is incredibly social. It can be difficult, however, when his school schedule means he is in more individualized classrooms away from his peers, but having the Newton Mustangs has helped her son grow. 

"With the diagnosis, it’s really isolating. He’s in a substantially separate classroom. He’s been in a substantially separate classroom since he was three," she said. "He’s always been social, so it’s been a challenge, but he has a group of friends now. He has a whole team of friends, not even a group. They’ve really embraced him. They’re happy to have him on their team. It’s just friends. It’s amazing to see."

A season's worth of work, fun and friendship led to this moment on Sunday before the Patriots took on the Cowboys. At his first Patriots game, Patrick got a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the nerves didn't get to him. He said he was ready for his moment and even practiced a celebratory dance.

"I'm very super excited," Patrick said before his kick.

As for his mom, Agatha was thrilled her son got the opportunity.

"I can’t believe it. I didn’t even tell a lot of people until Friday because I just couldn’t believe it was actually going to happen," she said. "I’m just so excited for him that this is something he gets to experience."

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