SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – Even before Savannah Christian's road trip to Charlton County resulted in a memorable playoff win last week, Reggie Horton was on the ride of his life.
The developmentally challenged 32-year-old always wanted nothing more than to be part of a team, to share the emotions and excitement of a football season the way he does now as a constant presence on the Red Raiders' sideline.
"He means everything to us,'' said SCPS senior linebacker Eric Wickham. "He's the heart and soul of our team.''
"Everybody loves Reggie,'' added SCPS Assistant Coach Carl Carter. "It's a big family here and he just caught on with his enthusiasm out there and his heart. He just works so hard.''
At practice and during games, Reggie keeps things in order, providing players with water along with his secret blend of ultra-sweet 'Reggie-Aide.'
"Oh yes,'' said SCPS junior lineman Will Bright, "best stuff in the world.''
It's with his commitment and diligence that Reggie has set an example without ever stepping on the field.
"He brings it down to earth for us,'' said Bright. "He shows us how much he wants to be out there.''
"I'll tell you one thing about the guy,'' said SCPS head coach Donald Chumley. "He is a tremendous help. The guy works. I often kid with some of my coaches, hey, he might be taking some of your jobs next year because he works harder than most of us.''
A big part of that work is just getting to Raider practice.
Almost every day of the week, Reggie takes the bus across town from the downtown Savannah home he shares with his brother to a stop on Chatham Parkway, where Coach Carter picks him up and takes him over to Savannah Christian. And to the players he now considers more than teammates.
"[They're] family,'' Reggie said of the Raider players. "It's a good program. I'm glad I decided to come to the program.''
And before boarding the bus for Charlton County last Friday, Raider players and parents showed Reggie how glad they are that he came into their lives, presenting him with the red letterman's jacket he wished for, the one, he would say, just like the other boys wear.
"It probably means the world to him,'' said SCPS senior lineman Cooper Lemonds. "We gave him a jersey a while back and it meant everything to him. So that right there probably made his day.''
"That's what he wanted,'' Carter said. "He got him a Raider letter jacket.''
And Reggie already knows where he would most like to wear it.
"Hopefully,'' he said, "to the state championship.''
The raiders have three more steps to go to get that far.
They travel to Lincolnton to play Lincoln County this week in the state quarter-finals. And they'll have Reggie with them every step they take from here on out, giving as much to the team as he gets from being part of it.
"You know, I think it's a sense of belonging,'' said Chumley. "And I tell you, from day one, the first day he walked out here, he was part of the family. It's about more than just a football game. Any time you get to make someone happy and see the reward they get from helping you, it's what high school sports is about.''
And that's why Reggie's ride with the Raiders has even meant more than winning.