He Never Thought He Would Get Such an Honor

He Never Thought He Would Get Such an Honor

It was the night of Fossil Ridge High School’s homecoming game. And like the majority of his classmates, high school senior and loyal friend K.L. Norwood was amongst the crowd, with his peers, of course, sitting on the sidelines, and cheering on his best friend and the star quarterback Max Akin.

That night was really meant to be Max Akin’s big night: he was the star quarterback of the high school’s football team, after all, on top of being favored to be crowned as the homecoming king. And although K.L Norwood was also technically in the running for winning the honor of being named the homecoming king himself, he was really there to support his best friend Max on arguably the most important night of his high school life.

But little did K.L. know that his best friend Max had planned to do something that would ultimately change both of their lives for the better—unbeknownst to the both of them, too.

It is amazing how selfless acts of friendship and kindness can set in motion life-altering events.

What a Memorable Night for Max Akin

We all know how important football is to Americans, in general, so just imagine how especially momentous that Friday night was for the star quarterback and Texas high school senior Max Akin.

I mean, if we judge the night based on his performance in the homecoming game alone, Max was, by all accounts, having an amazing one, under the bright Friday night lights. As a matter of fact, by halftime, the high school quarterback had already managed to throw 200 yards, run for 60 yards, and guide his team to 4 touchdowns.

But that Friday night and Max was just getting started. That rock-star performance out on the football field would pale in comparison to what Max was planning to do for his best friend K.L. Norwood in front of the entire school community.

So, Who Exactly Is This Max Akin?!

Before Max Akin became the star quarterback of Fossil Ridge High School’s football team, he was simply its wide receiver first. But he worked his way up and proved himself to his high school’s football program, his teammates, and the coach. So, by the time his senior year came around, Max had earned the quarterback position thanks in large part to his great throwing arm.

And as you would guess, Max was considered to be one of the leaders and popular kids in his Texas high school. Aside from being the star quarterback and having popularity, though, Max had a charming personality and winning smile, to boot.

So, Max was clearly in the running for the honor of being crowned the homecoming king. And he was, indeed, one of the five young men who were competing for the coveted title. Max was favored to win because he had the overwhelming support of his peers, like his classmate and best friend K.L. Norwood.

An Evening Fit for a King - A Homecoming King, That Is

Homecoming is a tradition. And we all know that homecoming and its festivities lead up to the homecoming football game and the homecoming dance. So, as the star quarterback of Fossil Ridge High School’s football team and the expected winner for the homecoming king title, all eyes were firmly fixed on Max Akin.

And two of those eyes belonged to his best friend K.L. Norwood who was there to support Max from the sidelines.

K.L. had no idea that all eyes would soon be on him, though, even with his insider knowledge as Max’s best friend, the football team’s equipment manager, and one of the five young men who were competing for the homecoming throne.

Let’s Get to Know K.L. Norwood

Kemper Louis Norwood, or “K.L. Norwood,” as most of his peers know him as, did not enter the world like the vast majority of his more fortunate and healthier classmates did. No, K.L. was born 3 months prematurely! He only weighed 1 pound and 13 ounces when his mother gave birth to him.

In fact, he was in such a critical state when he was born that the doctors actually offered his parents the choice to remove him from life support. The doctors advised that Baby K.L. Norwood would not live very long—and if he did live longer, he was bound to lose his ability to walk, talk, hear, and even see.

But K.L.’s parents decided to have faith. And his parents chose to give their baby son a fighting chance. And so, K.L. fought; and he even made it to high school and beyond. And he is still going strong!

Cerebral Palsy Is Not Going to Get in K.L. Norwood’s Way

If you thought that K.L. Norwood was in the clear after the scary events and circumstances of his premature birth, you are unfortunately mistaken. Soon after his complicated birth, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which was, in fact, caused by the health complications that accompanied his birth.

As you might know, cerebral palsy is a disability that affects one’s physical development. It typically affects one’s ability to walk and talk properly.

So, needless to say, a football field is hardly where you would assume to find someone like K.L. Norwood, with his health condition. But sure enough, K.L. persevered. He found his way to a football field, despite the fact that the odds were stacked against him.

K.L. Norwood as a High School Senior

Even though playing sports was not really in the cards for him, K.L. Norwood never gave up on finding ways to belong and contribute to his school community.

And he succeeded in making himself an influential member of his school community—someone who was not only respected but admired and loved by his classmates as well. In fact, Fossil Ridge High School teacher Staci Murto told The Dallas Morning News: "You can tell everyone just loves him."

And his best friend Max Akin even shared with the daily newspaper that "everybody in the school loves K.L. You see him walking down the hallway and he's shaking at least 12 hands at a time."

Not Just a Regular Equipment Manager

And you probably guessed it, but K.L. Norwood’s favorite sport is none other than football. So, it would make sense that K.L. eventually found a way to get involved with his favorite game in his senior year of high school.

Although his health condition would not allow him to become involved as an actual player, K.L. did manage to become an integral part of the football team’s success by signing up to be one of Fossil Ridge High School’s student equipment managers.

As a student equipment manager, K.L. had the daily responsibility of prepping the football team’s uniforms, filling up its water bottles, and such well before the players ever stepped foot on the football field and even well before school started for the day.

K.L. Norwood’s dedication to making a contribution to the school’s football team and to the school community itself earned him a nomination to be the homecoming king.

Ah, Homecoming Night!

If you grew up and attended high school in the United States, then, you know how socially important homecoming night is. It is on the same level as a state championship game or senior prom. After all, it is, by definition, the culmination of a week’s worth of festivities celebrating school athletics and promoting school spirit.

And to be honored as the homecoming king or queen would be a dream come true for most high school seniors. And Max Akin was on the “shortlist” of the 5 young men who were up for the honor and title.

So, you would assume that Max would seize the opportunity to create a short video to explain why his peers should vote for him as his big chance to talk about himself and his various accomplishments, right?

Showing Support for His Best Friend K.L. Norwood

But Max Akin took a much nobler route: he used his video to campaign for his loyal friend K.L. Norwood who might not have been a big-shot football player, but he did work very hard to contribute to the school in the other ways that he could.

Max urged his classmates to vote for the student who "positively uplifts this school the most”—K.L. Norwood.

If Max had his way, everyone would have voted for his best friend because, as he said, "K.L. is honestly the most positive guy I've ever met in my life." K.L Norwood is the kind of person who will go out of his way to make you feel good about yourself by always laughing at your jokes, thereby making you feel much funnier than you probably are.

The Ultimate Support

Despite his extra campaigning for his best friend K.L. Norwood, Max Akin, to no one else’s surprise, not even K.L.’s, was crowned as the homecoming king during halftime.

And of course, even though K.L. had wanted to win deep down, too, he was genuinely happy for and supportive of Max. In fact, K.L. noted: "It was really exciting. I knew he was going to win from the get-go, so I clapped for him."

But things did not seem right to Max. He still felt like there was someone else who was much more deserving of the honor.

Talk about a Handoff

Soon after Max was crowned as the homecoming king and took pictures with his homecoming queen, he did the unthinkable: he walked towards his best friend K.L. Norwood and gestured for him to come closer to him.

Once K.L. finished walking over to Max, Max kneeled before K.L. and handed over the crown to his loyal friend.

Max felt it in his heart that K.L. Norwood deserved this honor much more. And as soon as the crowd finally realized what was happening before their very eyes, they immediately roared with joy and approval.

You could say that it was Max and the football game’s best play of the night. It was definitely worth a replay.

The New King of Homecoming Night

After Max Akin handed over the crown and the throne to his best friend K.L. Norwood, the crowd in the football stadium went wild with joy and began to chant “K.L.” to show their support of K.L. Norwood.

Needless to say, K.L. was beyond shocked and elated. As someone who had overcome tremendous obstacles to be where he was now, he was overwhelmed with joy from getting one of the greatest stamps of approval that his peers could confer onto him.

And K.L. was not alone in his shock and joy; the homecoming queen herself was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed for K.L. as well.

The moment was truly special. And Max recounted: "I thought it was the best hearing them chant K.L.'s name right after halftime. And I know he liked that too. Everybody was going wild for him. Everybody loves K.L. at this school.”

Letting It All Sink In, You Know

K.L. Norwood was in such a state of shock and joy after his best friend Max Akin decided to gift him the crown and honor that he could literally do nothing but stand still and smile big as he processed what just happened and basked in the glory of that special moment in his life. K.L. recalled: "It was really nice of him to do that, and I'm actually glad he did but yes, it did surprise me. It made me really, really happy."

Max was equally happy, though, despite the fact that he had just given the crown and honor to someone else. In fact, Max gave K.L. a huge hug and expressed his brotherly love for his best friend. One could argue that his selfless act of friendship and kindness trumped his stellar performance as the star quarterback that night.

A Message from Saint Max

And although it was not Max Akin’s goal, his very selfless act of kindness and friendship went viral on many social media platforms. All that social media success eventually got the local news media’s attention.

Max noted: "If you spread a little bit of love and compassion around, that's all we really need and something lacking in today's world—a little bit of positivity every once in a while."

And from there, the rest is history, as the story managed to get national attention. In fact, K.L. and Max’s story got TV personality and celebrity Ellen DeGeneres to take very close notice.

Yes, The Ellen Show

As you might possibly know, Ellen DeGeneres’ popular daytime talk shows The Ellen Show includes the fan-favorite segments that showcase ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things in and with their everyday lives.

And so, it probably does not come as a shock to you that Ellen would invite Max and K.L. to be guests on her wacky and wildly entertaining television show in which Ellen likes to amuse and surprise both her audience and her guests.

Without a doubt, Max and K.L.’s story had the kind of heart and wonder that Ellen seeks to highlight.

Fancy Trip from Texas to California

Less than a month after Max Akin had decided to selflessly honor his best friend K.L. Norwood by gifting him the homecoming title, Ellen DeGeneres decided to invite the two young men to her TV show and fly them out to California from Texas.

And to two young high school seniors from Texas, that opportunity was probably already a “treat.” But as any regular viewer of The Ellen Show knows, Ellen likes to reward her guests for the fan-favorite segments that shine the spotlight on everyday people who have done amazing things. Past rewards have included cars and money—even though Ellen DeGeneres is no Oprah Winfrey.

And so, Max and K.L. were each in for a much bigger surprise.

Just Spreading Some Love

Once Max and K.L. arrived in California and before the two young men joined Ellen on her show’s stage, Ellen DeGeneres briefed her studio audience on what made the two high school seniors so very special: Max had selflessly chosen to give up the spotlight and give up his homecoming throne in order to make his best friend K.L.’s wildest dream come true.

And Ellen emphasized how Max had done it for K.L. who also suffers from cerebral palsy—which made the story all the more heartwarming. But Max made a point to make it very clear that his selfless act of kindness and friendship had nothing, at all, to do with the fact that K.L. has cerebral palsy; it had only had to do with friendship and brotherly love.

In fact, Max said: “I don't see K.L. as a disabled person, I see him as a great human being. As a homecoming king, you should be able to make people happy and give good vibes all around the room, and K.L. never fails to do that.”

It Is All about the Golden Rule

Despite being so young, Max Akin showed the kind of wisdom, maturity, and eloquence that even grown adults fail to possess. He definitely handled himself well during his 15 minutes of fame, as a guest on The Ellen Show. In fact, he even managed to spread a message that more people need to rehear: "I think me and K.L. really want to get across the fact that, as corny as it may sound, you've got to treat everyone the way you want to be treated."

Max even further elaborated by encouraging everyone to always act on every opportunity to make someone else happy, even for just a moment.

Ellen DeGeneres Decides to Pay It Forward

After meeting the two young men, hearing their story, and admiring their good hearts, Ellen said, "We need more people like you in the world."

But that is not all. Ellen gave Max and K.L. more than her stamp of approval verbally. No, Ellen decided to gift them in a more practical way, after learning that both Max and K.L. were enrolling into college.

With the help of a production manager who ran onto the show’s stage with two checks for $10,000 each—one for Max and one for K.L.—Ellen rewarded the two young men for the goodness that they created and spread in this world.

Being a Positive Force in this World Is a Great Thing

This story of high school senior K.L. Norwood who, despite his suffering from cerebral palsy, worked very hard to belong and contribute to his school community, is a shining example of how you can still win in life, even if you have all types of debilitating challenges, if you are a genuinely good person, because there are people who notice and reward that sort of genuine kindheartedness.

Max further elaborated on why he chose K.L. to give the homecoming crown to—and not to someone else: "It was a whole bunch of great guys, but I knew exactly who deserved the crown. As soon as I heard the nominees, I knew K.L. was the one who should get it."

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