Saturday's DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game will mark the end of Newark linebacker Michael Earl's football career, but he hopes a key part of the event will be a bridge to his professional career.
The hallmark of the Blue-Gold event is the Hand-In-Hand buddy program, which connects players, cheerleaders, band members, and ambassadors with special needs classmates. Earl has been paired with his childhood friend Ryan Alexander.
"I've known him since him since I was 11 or 12. He's really a great kid. I knew him growing up, we hung out a lot, he came over and I'd babysit him. And now the fact we get to be buddies in the Blue-Gold game is amazing."
Going through the various events over the course of the year, Earl said he's inspired to get into Special Education at Delaware Tech, with the hopes of becoming a teacher, and still working with organizations like DFRC.
"I want to impact these kids lives. Everyone deserves to be treated the same way. I just want to be able to have the opportunity to do that for them."
Earl's selection to the game after serving as a captain for a Newark team that struggled its way to a 2-8 campaign, but he's hoping he can be part of a foundation that gets a historically strong program turned around.
"It's hard work. I was just learning by the seniors before me, and learning that 'hard work beats over everything.' I wanted to be a leader to the younger guys and let them know if they work hard, they can be like me."
Just being selected to the game was an honor for Earl, who will turn in his football cleats for good after the final buzzer Saturday night.
"It's very exciting to know that I'm the best at my school, and my school believes in me and trusts me. That's high praise," Earl said. ""It'll hit me pretty hard. It's my last football game in high school, it's pretty crazy. It'll be a big stage, I think I'm going out with a bang."
While he's hoping to bang a few running backs from his linebacker position Saturday, many in the special needs community have to be excited for the impact Michael wants to make going forward.
You can see Michael Earl and the rest of the DFRC Blue-Gold All-Stars Saturday at 6pm inside Delaware Stadium. Pre-game festivities begin at 5pm, and tickets will be available at the gate.