UT Tyler soccer adds a special new player - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

UT Tyler soccer adds a special new player


UT Tyler's Thursday afternoon press conference began a little late.

This little star was worth the wait.

"She would probably be a midfielder because she can run," UT Tyler women's soccer coach Stefani Webb said of her new player.

"She may be the missing piece we need," added UT Tyler player Chestley Strother.

The missing piece is 8 year old Emma Routh.  A 32 pound laughing machine.

"The joy she's been able to bring to our hearts, you saw how happy she is a full of life," said Webb.  "That has been inspiring to all of us.

At three years of age, Emma was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia, a rare bone marrow disease.

The 8 year old has been through chemo treatments and a bone marrow transplant.

"It's been pretty tough," said Emma's father Clint Routh.  "We've been getting by through the help of the soccer team and just friends and family."

Team IMPACT, an organization that matches children with a terminal illness to a local university, give the Lady Patriots an offer they couldn't refuse.

"When coach presented us with the option to have Emma on our team, we knew right away it was something we wanted to do," said UT Tyler senior Kathryn Haag.  "She's touched every one of our hearts. It's indescribable how important she already is to our team."

Thursday was Emma's time to shine.  The team held a media press conference and presented Emma with her own jersey.  Always smiling, Emma was very excited.

"I'm just happy," said Emma, excited about her soccer skills. "You can kick and I kick really hard."

Her dad says she's falling in love with soccer.

"She's just now learning about soccer," said Routh.  "She likes it because she can kick a ball and not get in trouble."

Emma was really happy on the field.  The team warmed up with a game of duck, duck, goose. After showing some serious skill with the soccer ball, Emma became an assistant coach.

"You're running and tired and when Emma's at practice you see her and think 'how can I complain?'" said Haag.  "She'll never get the chance to play sports and do what we're doing. It's a reality check to realize and be thankful for what you can do and not complain when something is hard."

Emma's day was about more than pictures and soccer. The 8 year old inspiration has a new group of sisters at UT Tyler.

"When we made the commitment to be in Emma's life, we made the commitment forever," said Webb.  "She's going to be apart of this time until she's no longer. We know there's going to be tough days and wonderful days. Her strength and joy really brings it to us."

Seeing Emma's smile is a great feeling for her family.

"Just to see her happy means the world to me," said Clint Routh.  Routh was moved by all the attention paid to his little girl.

"I've never felt that feeling before," he said.  "It's pretty cool."

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