Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton flew to Atlanta on his day off this week to meet Taylor Austin Deckard (who prefers to go by Austin), a 10-year-old Auburn fan with a “severe heart condition,” whose Christmas wish was to meet Newton.
Deckard suffers from advanced pulmonary hypertension and is at Atlanta Healthcare of Atlanta’s Egleston Hospital for a procedure to be conducted Wednesday, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.
Deckard’s physical education teacher at Lakewood Elementary, Courtney Cooper, began a social media campaign to help the boy meet Newton, his favorite player.
That, and the many phone calls Newton received on his personal cell - which is supposed to be a private number, he said laughing - got his attention.
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“I tell you no lie, people were callin’ me!” he said. “I pay people to make sure that my number is not easy to get out. And I was hearin’ voice messages left and right! And I told him, his impact has been felt by so many people.”
The meeting of the two was captured in a heartwarming video and tweeted by Auburn University, and features Deckard, who is at first visibly shocked and amazed and then goes for the hug, which Newton returns lovingly.
“When I first went in there, it was like he was frozen!” Newton said. “Then...he just hugs me and it’s just...the parent touch, man. You can’t really explain it. And just for a child, my heart falls for a child in any situation. I was just there to comfort him. It just happened naturally.”
Newton said meeting the family and seeing their strength was inspiring.
“From a person who has kids, and I know I can only imagine as a father what (they are) going through right now,” he said. “I look at it and, you know, so many people wherever you go, they may complain or take certain things for granted. ...Certain people don’t even have great health. I’m still praying for a speedy recovery for Taylor and the Deckard family and hope everything works out.”
Newton remained at the hospital as long as Deckard felt healthy, and also asked Deckard what his favorite food was. It’s sushi, he was surprised to learn. Newton bought the family a huge crab legs and seafood dinner to eat at the hospital.
“I didn’t want to bombard the family,” he said. “The big picture is, he wanted something. And it was the proper people that put it into place to make it happen. I was just lucky enough to grant a person a wish.”