By Nicole Walby
Photo courtesy of Tiffin University
Brandon Aydt (left) and Spencer George became fast friends by kicking a football.
Brandon and Spencer are eight years apart, their hometowns are separated by 2,400 miles, and they both have a passion for kicking a football; this is the bond that brought them together.
Spencer George is a sixth-grader at Calvert Elementary. The youngest of two children (sister Sophia is 14) of Sharon and Scott Spencer, he always has been a sports fan and started playing football this season for his team, the BullDawgs. Like many kids his age, Spencer loves to kick the football and, lucky for him, he has a strong leg and a passion for the activity.
In late September, Spencer was practicing his kicks at Frost-Kalnow Stadium when Tiffin University student assistant Marquez Nelson noticed him. Watching him work so hard to get the ball through the uprights, Nelson had a great idea. He called his friend, Brandon Aydt, and within 20 minutes, the junior kicker with the Tiffin University Dragons was helping Spencer with his technique.
"Brandon is a helpful caring person," Nelson said. "When I introduced him to Spencer I believe he was more excited to be teaching Spencer than Spencer was to getting help."
"From what I have seen the relationship that they have is like a big brother teaching a little brother how to kick the football," Nelson said.
Aydt has become a role model, a mentor, and a friend all rolled into one.
They have gotten together five to six times since that first meeting to work on Spencer's kicking at Columbian's stadium, Aydt has even taken Spencer to TU's Heminger Center to practice indoors.
The practice seems to be paying off. Aydt said, "The progress he has made in the last couple of months is amazing. He could barely get the ball to the end zone when we started and now he is making almost half the kicks we attempt."
Spencer and Sharon even have gone to two TU football games to watch Brandon play. At one game Brandon saw Spencer in the stands and came off the field and high-fived Spencer.
Twenty-year-old Aydt is from Astoria, Ore., and chose Tiffin for the chance to play football and pursue his degree in criminal justice, majoring in homeland security. He met his girlfriend, Renee Peckinpaugh, at TU and brought her along to watch one of Spencer's games shortly after meeting the sixth-grader. George said that really made Spencer's day.
"When Brandon and Renee showed up at the football game, Spencer's eyes lit up," she said.
"Spencer was very surprised that someone, who didn't know him and is as busy with school and football as Brandon is, would take the time to show Spencer some of the skills he has developed," George said.
"I felt that at the time it was the right thing to do," Aydt said. "I thought it would be awesome to go down there and make a kid's day."
While at TU, Aydt is easy- going and taking advantage of the college experience, going to classes and hanging out with friends. Aydt will graduate next December and hopes to find a job as an intelligence analyst.
The Georges have had Aydt and Peckinpaugh over for dinner and exchanged Christmas gifts. Spencer gave Aydt an Ohio State University sweatshirt and Spencer received an Adidas bag and two footballs with a pump.
Astoria is a long way from Tiffin, but for Aydt, he considers the community where he goes to school his "home."
Aydt considers Spencer and his family his family away from home.
Tiffin University football coach Gary Goff is not surprised that Aydt is helping Spencer. "Brandon's attitude is infectious and makes people around him better," he said. "He is eager to help the team in any way possible and always shows up to practice with a smile on his face."
George said some people believe that Aydt is being paid to coach Spencer, but in fact, "he just does it because he wants to, he is a nice guy," Spencer said.
"In the beginning I thought I would help out once or twice, now I fit my schedule around when we can go practice kicking. He is high on the priority list," Aydt said.
Recently, the Tiffin Rotary Foundation, along with the Tiffin Optimist Club & Family and Children First Council, honored Aydt at their 2012 Youth Asset Builder Award luncheon. The awards, presented by Judge Jay Meyer of Seneca County Juvenile Court and Karen Eatmon of Family and Children First, are presented to individuals in the community who display developmental assets or help others develop them.
"I am not trying to brag or put myself out there," Aydt said. "With winning this award I am on Cloud Nine. I couldn't ask for anything more."
"Brandon has been an incredible role model for Spencer," George said. "He offers positive affirmation and promotes a sense of purpose and a positive view of the future. We are blessed to have him in our lives."
"Brandon is just a natural as a mentor and for us as parents it is wonderful to see someone so pleasant and optimistic to share some of those attributes," she said.
Maybe one day, we will see Spencer in a Tiffin uniform kicking a game-winning field goal for the Dragons. If that day comes, Brandon Aydt's cheers will be the loudest at the stadium.
"Brandon is just an incredible, mature young man with a big heart and kind," George said. "He has so much to give."