WE CAN SAFELY assume every athlete would love having a fan like Dante Mintz.
"Every play to him is a good play for me. Even if the other team scores, he'll still be cheering for me."
How wonderful is that, right?
Speaking those words Tuesday in a sunny courtyard at Roman Catholic High was Darryl Mintz, a 5-10, 175-pound senior cornerback and a member of the Non-Public squad set to meet Public on Thursday night, 7:30, at Lincoln Financial Field in the 38th annual Philadelphia Eagles City All-Star Football Game. (WIP will air a delayed broadcast Friday at 7 p.m. on 610-AM.)
Dante, 23, is Darryl's brother, and he has Down syndrome. And leave it at that, please. He has it. He's not handicapped by it. Isn't less of man because of it.
When making that point, "Deuce Deuce" (he wears No. 22) did not Mintz words.
"I view my brother the same way I view everybody else," he said. "He's a human being, just like I am and everybody else is.
"He does pretty much everything that a 'regular' person would do on a daily basis. Wakes up. Showers himself. Makes his own breakfast. Irons his own clothes . . . He can't do the same kinds of sporting activities, but he's active in Special Olympics with swimming and basketball. We throw a football around. Shoot some baskets. He has tried to take it to me a couple times. And he has!
"I understand that being able to play football is a gift. Dante can't do that, so a lot of what I do out there is for him."
He paused, then added, "All the time, in everything, I just try to make sure that my brother is having a good life."
Although Darryl has seen three Eagles games at the Linc, this experience will be Dante's first. He'll be one of what Darryl suspects will be 40-plus family/friends in attendance and, though he'll be loud, he'll have to settle for second-best status in the noisemaking category.
Darryl's mother, Tracey Davis, is an effervescent all-timer. She yells supportive to clever comments from beginning to end, and if she drowns out the PA announcer, don't be surprised. At Roman's games, it was not unusual to see her movements through the stands matching the ball's on the field. Play at the 10, there she was. Long pass. Next play at the opposite 30. There she was.
Even though Darryl stopped playing basketball after his freshman year, Mom also attended many of those games and, you got it, didn't even think about containing herself.
We'll let Darryl paint a word picture . . .
"She's always up there, wearing my jersey, yelling and jumping all around, and shouting 'Deuce Deuce!' " he said, laughing. "In my junior year, when we played in the championship game, I heard a cowbell and thought, 'Who the heck is up there with a cowbell?!' . . . I looked over . . . It was my mom.
"A couple times I thought of asking her [to scale back]. No chance. I know her. She's going to do it regardless. You hear her everywhere. She tells me she can't help it, because she's so proud of what I do and what I've become. And that she wants our team to win. I'm blessed to have her as my mom."
Joe McCourt, Roman's coach, described Mintz as "a great kid and off-the-field role model."
"He helps his mother tremendously with Dante," McCourt said. "Darryl always wanted Dante to be part of the team and on Thanksgiving he was an honorary captain, and they walked out together."
Mintz, a standout in pass coverage, is bound for Kutztown, so Mom and Dante no doubt will be fixtures at those games, too. He maintains a 3.3 GPA and is eyeing accounting. At Roman's postseason banquet, he received an award named for Bob Evans, who starred for the Cahillites and Penn, achieved great success in the business world and was widely considered "Roman's best friend" until his passing in 1996.
"We have always instilled [the importance of a work ethic] in Darryl from knee-high, and thank God he has carried that mantra with him until this day," Mom said. "He loves football, so all the hard work that goes into this game is not really work, because he enjoys it so much."
Of Darryl's relationship with Dante, she said, "Darryl is a better person because of his brother . . . He has always been taught to treat everyone with respect; just like he wants everyone to treat his brother."
Mintz, who lives on Edgemore Road near 67th and Lansdowne, will be joined at the Linc by all kinds of Roman teammates - Marcus Kelly, Brett Pellicciotti, Jack Schanz, Kenny English, Roberto Harris-Barron, Tyrone Brown, Steve Noel, Taishan Tucker and Jon Upchurch. He'll also enjoy hearing vocal support from Prep Charter assistant Robert Ford, who coached Darryl in the Overbrook Monarchs' weight-ball program and has remained a mentor.
"It's truly an honor and blessing to be playing in this game," Mintz said. "Only so many players throughout the city can be picked, so to know I'm one of them . . . Makes me feel great. The practices have gone well, and I'm confident in my team."
Let the nonstop enthusiasm from Mom and Dante start flowing!