Jenny Faber is an Iowa State football fan, but one of her new favorite players is a TCU Horned Frog.
TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin took the time Saturday to speak to Faber’s daughter, Abby, before Saturday’s game in Ames, Iowa.
A photograph of the moment, captured by Star-Telegram photographer Paul Moseley, took off online and continues to grow in popularity.
Faber, who acknowledges that she was unfamiliar with Boykin before he spoke to her daughter, said she and her family will “be following him the rest of the season.”
“It’s really cool that he would take the time to do that before a big game,” Faber said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Ankeny, Iowa, a Des Moines suburb.
The photograph shows Boykin kneeling in front of Abby’s wheelchair during the pregame coin toss. While other players had walked by Abby, Boykin stopped and asked, “What’s your name?”
She replied, “Abby.”
Once people started seeing Moseley’s photograph online, it went viral, especially after ESPN’s SportsCenter posted the shot to its Instagram page on Monday night.
“Who knew the effect of three words?” Moseley said.
‘Abby says ‘I’m famous’
Faber said Abby woke up Sunday morning excited and talking about getting to shake a football player’s hand.
At school on Monday, Faber said teachers and others said Abby was wearing “a big smile” because of her celebrity status.
“She’s heard us talking about it and says, ‘I’m famous,’ ” Faber said.
Abby, who turned 7 on Oct. 11, was chosen to be a “Kid Captain” for the game from Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, where she undergoes physical therapy.
Abby was born premature and weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces at birth, Faber said. She spent 105 days in the neonatal intensive care unit before going home, according to the hospital’s website.
She was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy just before turning 3.
“She usually uses a walker,” Faber said, explaining that she and her husband, Steve, thought it would be easier for Abby to use a wheelchair for the pregame ceremony.
Faber said Abby, a first-grader, “pretty much takes her challenges head-on.”
She has participated in the Ankeny Miracle League — T-ball for children with special needs — and this spring performed a dance recital with Ballet Des Moines: Dance without Limits.
“She really likes to dance,” Faber said.
And she really likes sports, Faber said, adding that Abby’s two brothers and a sister are all active in athletics.
The moment with Boykin, Faber said, is something her family will long cherish.
“You can see in his eyes that he’s taking the time to talk to her,” Faber said.
Boykin, considered one of the front-runners for this year’s Heisman Trophy, has been impressive this year, both on and off the field. After he rallied to beat Kansas State two weeks ago, Wildcat coach Bill Snyder wrote the TCU star a congratulatory letter, saying he was proud of Boykin “as a person & leader as well as a great player.”
Boykin also posted the photo with Abby on his Instagram page with the caption “It’s bigger than a game I love touching young people lives”
He reiterated that point Tuesday.
“I really wish we could do more things like that here at TCU, because we inspire so many young people,” Boykin said Tuesday. “And God just put something in my heart to reach out to her!”
‘I was really touched’
Moseley has taken thousands of photos in his 35 years with the Star-Telegram but never has he watched a single image become passed around by so many people online.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Moseley said.
Moseley said he caught the image almost by chance — Abby was at midfield for the coin toss, but until Boykin went out of his way to talk to her, Moseley thought it would be just another pregame ceremony.
“There wasn’t much of a photo, just scene-setter/slide-show kind of pics, until after the flip,” Moseley said. “All of the players kind of walked past the girl, but when I saw Trevone moving her way I moved close, really close, with a fisheye lens to get the stadium and the other players, I was so close I could hear him. He put his hands on the handrests of the wheelchair and said, ‘What’s your name?’ The emphasis on ‘your’ like we'd all do. Really soft conversational tones. I about fell over, I was really touched.”
Faber said reading the comments posted with the photograph has been an inspiration, much like her daughter.
“It has touched a lot of hearts,” Faber said.
Moseley said he has had other photographs go viral, most notably a portrait he shot of legendary sniper Chris Kyle in April 2012.
He shot that photo, which showed Kyle holding his .308 sniper rifle, for a profile the Star-Telegram had published, but it didn’t become widely circulated until after Kyle was shot and killed at a gun range in February 2013.
But nothing, he said, like Boykin’s chance meeting with little Abby.
“It’s been amazing to watch,” Moseley said.