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After 19 years, Rabun football team manager awarded letterman jacket

In his Wildcat jersey, Josh Justus is just one of the guys -- but he means so much more to the team.

RABUN COUNTY, Ga. — The manager of the Rabun County football team looks the part. In his Wildcat jersey, Josh Justus is just one of the guys.

"The football team, they love me. They like me being around," said 40-year-old Justus. 

His sister, Kristin Mote, said it didn't always look like that.

"All through school, being different, people pick on you," she said. 

Josh Justus has autism and special needs. When he graduated in 2002, he had never stepped foot on the Rabun County High School football field.

"He didn't like school, he did not like school, he never wanted to go," Mote said.

That all changed a year after graduation when he was invited to check out a practice.

"Every time those doors open, Josh is there. Doesn't matter if it's a home game, away game, practice," said Head Football Coach Michael Davis. 

He said for 19 years, Justus has been part of the play action.

"Josh is one of us. That's how we look at it," Davis said. "He is part of our coaching staff, he's part of our support staff -- he is our biggest cheerleader."

He gets a playbook before every practice, and a spot on the sidelines during the games, but there's one thing Josh never had.

"We got denied and they kept saying, 'No we can't, because he didn't letter' and all that stuff," said Mote. 

Josh couldn't get a letterman's jacket.

"It felt like this was always something he deserved. If anyone deserved a letter jacket, I think he deserved it, for 19 years of coming to every single football game," he said. 

The team thought so too. 

Assistant Coach Joey Haban surprised him after a big win this season, debuting Justus' own jacket.

"He hasn't come to this campus without wearing it since he got it. That speaks volumes in itself," Haban said. 

Wide Receiver Jaden Gibson said it was an emotional moment for the whole team. 

"A lot of people might take that for granted, just graduating and getting a jacket, but for him, that is his million-dollar ticket right there. He loves that jacket. He wouldn't trade that up for the world," said Gibson. 

Haban said the jacket is a win for Justus -- and a victory for the team.

"They learn that everyone is not the same. They accept him and love him like any other player that's on this team," he said.

Justus looks like he’s on the team, and with the jacket, he feels like it, too.

"This jacket, it's my heart! Wildcat nation. It's meant everything to me," said Justus. 

Football season may be coming to a close, but Justus said his work isn't over -- he plans to attend every basketball game this winter -- but you better believe he will be wearing that football letterman's jacket.

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