As he stood in the middle of the football field, K.L. Norwood listened to everyone chanting his name. It was a moment to remember, not least because his friend had just done something amazing for him. And, understandably, Norwood was ecstatic about what had just transpired.
That friend was Max Akin, who in September 2016 attended Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time, he was a popular kid; he was the football team’s quarterback, after all. But there’s yet another reason why he hit local headlines and was even invited onto The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Specifically, something happened at the Fossil Ridge High School homecoming game in September 2016 that touched people’s hearts. And while Akin scored four touchdowns in the first half of the game, that wasn’t it. In particular, it was a pretty special act that the quarterback took it upon himself to perform at half time – while watched by legions of football fans.
The 17-year-old knew he had been nominated by his peers to receive the prestigious title of homecoming king. And when he was announced as the winner during the game, he accepted the crown graciously. That by itself is worthy of praise; it was what Akin did next, however, that earned him all the plaudits.
Before that moment, the popular jock had some photographs taken with the homecoming queen, as was expected of him. Then, as the crowd looked on, their newly crowned king paused and looked around for someone else. Who was he searching for? And why was he not just enjoying the moment?
Finally, though, Akin spotted the man he was looking for, and then he called one of his fellow students over to him. The student’s name was K.L. Norwood. He was the manager of their football team and had also been nominated for homecoming king.
So Norwood, a student with cerebral palsy, duly walked over to Akin. And then, standing in front of the crowd, Akin removed his crown and dropped down to one knee, holding it out in front of him.
It turned out that, in an exceptionally kind gesture, Akin was offering the homecoming king crown to his friend. And in September 2016, Norwood would tell Today about what had gone on in that moment. “He gave me a hug, and then he said, ‘I love you,’ and then he gave [the crown] to me,” he said.
While speaking to local news channel WFAA, moreover, Norwood described the moment as “absolutely terrific.” And the crowd clearly thought it was fantastic, too. Indeed, Akin’s kind gesture had the crowd chanting Norwood’s name.
So why did Akin give up his crown? Well, he told Today that ever since the candidates for homecoming king had been announced, he knew what should happen. In particular, he knew that, whatever happened, Norwood should be the one who earned the crown.
“I think it should’ve gone to the person who positively uplifts the school and everybody around him,” Akin told WFAA. “That person is K.L., for sure.”
And it seems as if Norwood was a seriously popular kid at school, too. At least, that’s according to Akin, who told Today, “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.”
And Norwood was especially popular with the football team. “At practice, all the football guys love having him around because he’ll laugh at your jokes and make you feel a lot funnier than you actually are, me especially,” Akin added.
Akin’s kind deed didn’t come as a huge shock to the school community, though. In fact, it seems as if he has something of a reputation among his peers and teachers for being a generous guy with a big heart.
Indeed, his football coach, Tony Baccarini, told Today, “He treats everyone like that, which is why he gets along with everyone… He’s just a great spirit.” In fact, selfless Akin didn’t even submit his own video campaign to become homecoming king.
Instead, he chose to totally make Norwood’s day. “It was really nice of him to do that, and I’m actually glad he did, but yes, it did surprise me,” Norwood told Today. “It made me really, really happy.”
And, given the heartwarming nature of the pair’s story, it’s perhaps no surprise that it subsequently got picked up by media outlets and ended up going viral. That said, in some further press appearances, Akin tried to play down his generosity; instead, he used the attention as an opportunity to spread a message to others.
“As corny as it may sound, treat everyone as you deserve to be treated, just like K.L. does every day,” Akin told Today. He also encouraged people to “spread a little bit of love and compassion around.”
What’s more, Akin’s incredible gesture even landed him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he put to bed any suggestion that he only gave Norwood the crown because he was disabled. “In fact, that’s not it at all,” he told DeGeneres.
“I don’t see K.L. as a disabled person; I see him as a great human being. And as a homecoming king you should really be able to make people happy and give good vibes all over the room, and K.L. never fails at doing that,” he added. To reward his kindness, moreover, DeGeneres handed Akin and Norwood two checks, each worth $10,000 – itself a lovely gesture that, many would say, was richly deserved.