BOISE – Jackson Bezzant led last week’s Bronco Walk alongside Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin like a boss.
Decked out in Boise State gear from head to toe, the 8-year-old Ammon resident wasn’t fazed by the cheering fans or the size of the football players who walked behind him.
“He is just eating this up. He loves football, and this is just such a privilege to be here,” said Jackson’s mom, Kelley Bezzant on Nov. 4. “He is just having the time of his life, really. I think it’s one of his best days ever.”
A lot has changed for Jackson since a painful Facebook post from his father in September.
Jackson has Treacher Collins syndrome, a condition that causes underdeveloped facial bones and tissue. He’s endured relentless teasing and bullying from his peers because of it.
“My heart is in pieces right now … my soul feels like it’s ripping from my chest,” Dan Bezzant wrote. “This beautiful young man – my son, Jackson – has to endure a constant barrage of derogatory comments and ignorance like I’ve never witnessed. He is called ugly and freak and monster on a daily basis by his peers at school.
“He says he has no friends and everyone hates him. Kids throw rocks at him and push him shouting these horrific words … please, please take a minute and imagine if this were your child.”
After hearing about Dan’s Facebook post, which went viral in September, Boise State invited Jackson to be a Bronco for a Day.
Harsin said he gave Jackson the job of leading the Broncos, not just on the walk, but for the entire game.
“We needed to feel his energy tonight,” Harsin said.
Before Boise State’s 41-14 win over Nevada on homecoming day, Jackson and his family received the royal treatment, meeting players and getting in on all the behind-the-scenes preparation before leading the Bronco Walk.
“(Harsin) just took his time with him, threw the ball with him a little bit and encouraged him,” Kelley Bezzant said. “I didn’t hear specifics, but he did take a lot of time with Jack, and he really appreciated that.”
During warmups, Jackson tossed the football back and forth with former BSU quarterback Taylor Tharp, and he was on the sideline when the team took the field.
“(Our players) love living in Boise. They love being out in the community, and they love making a difference. Part of that is sometimes protecting those who can’t protect themselves,” Harsin said. “When you’re a football player, you get to go out there and put pads on and all that. You get to protect yourself. You get to do something really special, and it’s a privilege. At the same time, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with it. So Jackson being out there with us and being a part of it, that’s just part of who we are.
“But it wasn’t even really about that tonight. It was about (Jackson) bringing it for the Broncos, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Kelley says her son won’t forget his experience with the Broncos at Albertsons Stadium, and she hopes Jackson’s story continues to inspire more kindness.
“Almost immediately after the post, the day after the post even, we got a million calls and people from all over the world who were embracing Jack,” Kelley said. “Neighbors who are aware of the situation who weren’t before have just embraced and loved Jack, and people from all over the country are sending us love and packages.
“The school situation changed immediately. The weekend after the post he went back to school and he says, ‘Mom, I got to play kickball with the kids and I have 165 friends now.’ His world has changed. He’s not the same kid he was before that post.”