Everyone has a favorite team.
Ironwood, Mich. native Cody Rye loves America’s Team — not his home state Detroit Lions or the undefeated Green Bay Packers, but the Dallas Cowboys.
Rye dreamed of one day being a hero on the football field. He watched the Cowboys win Super Bowls in the early 1990s.
At age 5, Rye was involved in a horrific car accident that paralyzed him from the waist down.
With hard work, he regained some use of his legs and started to walk with hand crutches, however he was mostly relegated to using a wheelchair. Rye still wanted to play football.
Eventually, 18-year-old Rye achieved his dream of playing for the Ironwood Red Devils high school team and was profiled on ESPN’s E:60.
The segment, narrated by actor Sean Astin, aired in October 2011.
Rye’s story moved several people in and out of the NFL, including former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, a host at a Green Bay, Wis. radio station and several members of the Green Bay Packers.
“Troy Aikman sent a football, picture and jersey all signed. One quote says ‘You would have been a great teammate,’ Rye said.
A lot of people have said after watching the story that they have changed their perspective on life,” Rye said.
“They don’t take things for granted.
“It’s been awesome.”
Rye was a guest on WNFL radio in Green Bay just a day after the story aired on ESPN.
“I was on WNFL radio and they were asking about the E:60 story about my accident and playing football. At the end of the interview, they said ‘Even though you are a Cowboys fan, we would like to offer you two tickets to the Packers-Vikings MNF game and sit in the general manager’s box.’
Rye went to the Nov. 14 ESPN Monday Night Football game at Lambeau field. He was the Packers’ guest of honor. WNFL radio host John Maino facilitated bringing Rye to the game.
“Five years ago, [Packers GM] Ted Thompson asked me if I wanted to bring troops to his private box to enjoy a Packers’ game with all the food and drink that could entertain them,” said Waino.
“I saw Cody’s story on E:60. I am from the Upper Peninsula [of Michigan], so we have that kinship. I contacted Thompson’s assistant and I said ‘I know we usually bring troops but watch this story.”
The Packers’ response: ‘We would be honored to have him there.’
Even though it wasn’t his beloved Cowboys, Rye loved it.
“The experience was unbelievable. I met Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson and ESPN MNF analyst Ron Jaworski. I also met Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf and Milwaukee Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio.
“I met Charles Woodson, Ryan Grant, and AJ Hawk,” said Rye.
After the game, Maino and the Packers’ equipment manager brought Rye into Green Bay’s locker room.
“I went in the locker room and looked in the players’ lockers. The equipment manager let me put on Clay Matthews’ helmet and John Kuhn’s shoulder pads.”
The Packers gave him Kuhn’s gloves.
Just as Rye was leaving the Packers’ locker room, the equipment manager grabbed a hat.
It was from quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ locker.
“They gave me Aaron Rodgers hat,” Rye told me.
Waino explained to Rye the value of the sideline cap.
“It is priceless,” said Maino.
“Cody being nicest kid in the world gave it to his younger sister on two conditions — she can’t wear it, and she has to put it under glass because it still has Rodgers’ hair still in the hat!”
The Packers issued a statement: ““It was honor to host Cody at our Monday night game and hear his story. We are big fans of his and we hope that he is now a fan of the Packers.”
Rye summed up the moment succinctly.
“I’m still a Dallas Cowboys’ fan, but now. I’m somewhat a Packers’ fan.”
Note: Ben Houser produced the segment on Cody Rye for E:60.