Student-coach Jaylon Harper serves as inspiration on the Mineola sideline

Sports

MINEOLA, Texas (KETK) – Mineola’s Jaylon Harper is a man of many talents.

You may have seen him knock down a half-court shot, dance outside the bus, or celebrate a touchdown, while also being a student-coach for many Yellowjacket teams.

“I coach football offense, I coach basketball, I’m doing track,” said Harper.

“He’s got a genuine love to be here each and every day, and I think the kids feed off of that and it’s just a pleasure having him around,” said Mineola head football coach and athletic director Luke Blackwell.
Jaylon has autism and was non-verbal early in his life.

But he found a love for sports, and as he became more involved with athletics, his personality came shining through.

“It means the world to us as parents to see somebody spend quality time and wanting to help our son with such disabilities,” said Jaylon’s dad, Royce Kennedy.

“It’s just a blessing for Mineola to take the time out to take a special needs child and let him participate in all the activities,” said his mom Toni Kennedy. “It just means the world to me, I’m overjoyed.”

If you do get a chance to speak with Jaylon, you’ll learn quickly, he doesn’t care too much about talking about himself, instead, he’d much rather focus on those around him.

“I love all my friends, the coaching staff, teachers, and Mineola ISD and my classmates, 2020,” said Harper.

“The players and coaches accepted him for who he is and let him be Jaylon,” said Royce. “I think that his demeanor has grown by them letting Jaylon be Jaylon.”

“If everybody could look at Jaylon and grab a piece of what he has it just makes life so much more special,” said Mineola head boys basketball Ryan Steadman.

As he finishes up his senior year, it seems as though, letting Jaylon be Jaylon, will continue to leave a lasting legacy, with the Yellowjackets.

Although this will be his last year as a student, Blackwell says the school is looking for a way to keep Jaylon on staff, for the foreseeable future.

Watch the video to see the story.

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