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Honorary team member, 7, gives Marian football players a new perspective

Spring football is back and young Trace Butler may be the secret weapon this season for the Knights.

INDIANAPOLIS — After a pandemic hiatus, spring football at the college level is finally back.

At Marian University, they're working on their chemistry, because they have a new secret weapon.

Everyone needs a normal routine. These football players are happy to be back together again and chasing a common goal.

"There's a lot of high expectations here, you know, and we always say that high expectations are better than no expectations," said head coach Mark Henniger. "The culture here at Marian is to win."

That winning culture now includes 7-year-old Trace Butler. His dad played for the Michigan Wolverines.

Trace signed a contract with the team earlier this year through a program called Team Impact. Kids are paired with college teams to help them develop.

RELATED: Marian University signs 7-year-old Peyton Manning Children's Hospital patient to football team

Trace was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just 18 months old, and his family said the Team Impact experience came along at just the right time.

"It is taking a toll on him, and so I think this program will help him embrace his Type 1 and then just kind of come out of his shell a little bit and just see that it's OK to have Type 1 and be an athlete or a, quote-unquote, normal kid," his mom said.

RELATED: Marian senior crucial to team's NAIA championship run after giving birth

Trace has the run of the place. He gets to be involved in practices and the college players gravitate to him. The newest member of the team is giving everyone a fresh perspective.

"You see Trace come out here with a smile on his face and he's excited and our guys all know and see what it is that he's going through and the fight that he has, it just offers such a great glimpse of perspective," said Henniger. "When we first got into this, we looked at it as 'Hey, we're going to do so much great for his kid and his family and all that' and I was not really aware of the benefits that we'd receive as a program."

It's the third that Marian has taken part in the program. You can see and feel the importance of it, and Trace is soaking it all in. 

So when Marian makes a run in the playoffs this fall, you can thank Trace for the extra motivation. 

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