The social media world was buzzing last Friday when word came that a settlement had been reached which would allow Anthony Starego to spend one more football season with the Brick Green Dragons. 

Anthony Starego (courtesy Bill Normile)


Brick senior kicker Anthony Starego, who has autism, made the game-winning kick to stun Toms River North on Friday night. (Photo by Scott Stump).

You probably know the heartwarming story of Starego, a young man with autism who made national news last fall when he kicked a game-winning field goal and the following week kicked another field goal which almost won a game.  It appeared that 2012 would be the end of his Brick career as it was his fourth with the program.

While he was technically a senior on paper his condition allows him to remain in high school until he is 21and at the end of the year his parents appealed to the NJSIAA for Anthony to be able to play football for one more season.

That was in clear violation of the organization’s rules which prohibit students from competing after the age of 19 and after they have had eight semesters of eligibility and the state athletic association denied the appeal which was later reaffirmed by the State Education Commissioner.  However Starego’s parents sought relief from the courts and after some back-and-forth and mixed rulings the NJSIAA on Friday decided to resolve the matter by allowing Anthony to play one more season.

He had been practicing with the team throughout and on Friday night he not only ran onto the Keller Memorial Field wearing his green and white uniform with his teammates but served as a game captain.  No doubt he helped inspire Brick to a huge victory over rival Toms River South even though he missed his only extra-point attempt late in the game.

I mentioned that the story was all over Twitter and Facebook and most of the comments were congratulating and wishing Anthony good luck while at the same time taking shots at the NJSIAA for waiting so long to rule in his favor.  In truth I believe the governing body of high school sports in New Jersey was correct in its stance and in the end had a change of heart to avoid what would likely be a long and expensive legal challenge…one they can’t afford.

While Anthony’s story is an inspirational one I would imagine he is not the first autistic or other challenged student-athlete who wanted another shot at competing after his or her eligibility was over.  The difference here was his parents took legal action and you can bet others will so in the future.  Pandora’s Box is clearly open.