Make your home page

College football team cheers honorary 6-year-old teammate at Zionsville youth game

Marian University football team supports 6-year-old fighting leukemia in Indianapolis

Dan Klein | News 8 at 10 p.m.

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The Marian University football team flipped the script Thursday night as the collegiate athletes cheered on the youth flag football team. One of the young players is Jackson Stout, 6, who has been an honorary Marian Knight for more than two years. Jackson even has his own locker in the Marian locker room.

Jackson was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old.

He loves football, thanks to both of his parents, who told News 8 they are obsessed with the sport.

Thanks to a special partnership, Jackson and his family have been on the sidelines at just about every game and a number of practices. He is even able to suit up and score some touchdowns during those practices.

“This team has been 135-plus big brothers to him,” his dad, Levy Stout said.

There was no Knight practice Thursday. Instead, those 135 players loaded up on three buses to see Jackson at Zionsville West Middle School.

The team led a skills clinic for all the teams beforehand.

The Marian coaches and players said the connection to Jackson these last two years has kept them grounded. If Jackson can be upbeat at a practice sometimes after chemo, they can’t complain.

“When I get down and I feel sorry for myself, I think about him and his situation and how fortunate I am,” said Marian running back, Chuck Salary.

This year is Jackson’s first chance to play flag football.

“He deserves this, for him to have this opportunity to play in this league is incredible,” Salary said. “I think it’s great.”

His mother, Ashley Stout, remembers it was a bit of a rude awakening from his beginnings at Marian.

“His very first question was where are our lockers? What do they look like,” she said with a laugh. “We had to slowly explain to him, it’s not quite NAIA college level.”

After the clinic came the football game. Instead of an event usually involving 20 or so parents, it was standing room only with the college players lining the sidelines.

“They came to Zionsville to watch a bunch of kids play flag football,” said Levy Stout.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer, he’s been to all of our stuff,” coach Ron Henninger said. “It’s awesome for the tables to turn a little bit and us to have the opportunity to cheer him on.”

The coach admits the team has never been to a youth flag football game like this before.

Jackson grabbed the first handoff and almost took it the distance. With all the cheers on the sideline, it was obvious who had the ball.

On the second play, his teammate scored and the Marian Knights exploded with joy around the field.

“It’s amazing what a 6-year-old can do to inspire adults and get people through rough times,” said Levy Stout.

Jackson’s leukemia is in remission but as part the ongoing maintenance phase he still takes chemo through an IV every 28 days until October 2020 as well as other treatments at home.

He is a first-grader at Pleasant View Elementary School in Zionsville. He and his two sisters are triplets. The girls are honorary members of the cheer team.

A nonprofit called Team IMPACT connected him to Marian. It pairs kids with serious illnesses with local college athletic teams.

Marian is a powerhouse at the NAIA level, winning a pair of championships in the last seven years and losing a third. That’s good because Jackson loves winning.

Marian’s first game is home a week from Saturday on Sept. 14 at 1:30 p.m. You can bet Jackson and his family be returning the favor and will be on the sidelines cheering on the Knights.

His parents told News 8 they hardly knew where Marian University was when this all began. Now they are hardcore fans who go to almost every game.