When a Jonathan Law High School football player stepped onto the field for the opening coin toss Friday at a game in the Connecticut town of Milford against Bethel High School, he heard one of the referees laugh — and then immediately broke into tears.
It wasn’t that the laugh upset his feelings, but rather that he recognized that distinctive laugh. It was the laugh of his father, Joe Egersheim, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve who had been away from home for a whole year.
“I just looked down and started crying,” the young man, senior tight end Cole Egersheim, later recalled to local station WVIT. “I haven’t seen him in so long. I missed him so much.”
Fresh off of a flight from Kuwait, Joe had concocted a plan to sneak into the game in sunglasses and a referee uniform to surprise both his son and daughter, Olivia, who’s a cheerleader.
And apparently, the plan worked like a charm, up until Joe inadvertently gave himself away with his distinctive laugh.
“What’s funny is when I got out there, I turned and faced the head referee so (Cole) still didn’t realize it was me until the announcer mentioned we had a guest referee,” he explained to the New Haven Register. “That’s when I turned around and started laughing. I guess they say I have a funny, recognizable laugh. That’s when he knew.”
“I heard him start laughing, using his little snicker — ‘Heh heh heh,’” Cole said. “So I was like, ‘That’s him. Dang.’”
Watch what happened in the video below:
“It was very surreal,” Cole added. “I missed him so much. It was crazy. I hadn’t seen him in so long it was nice to finally get to talk to him. It made me want to have a better game, made me want to play better.”
And he did. Not only did he intercept a pass and catch a touchdown pass, but his team went on to crush Bethel High School 34-21.
It was a great night for the young man, but it was one for his father as well.
“It was the highlight of my life,” Egersheim said. “Besides having my kids, it was the highlight of my life.”
And you deserved it. Thank you for your service.
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