Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano teared up a little when he saw his cousin Ryan at the Vol Walk Saturday.
Six-year-old Ryan, who has special needs and is in a wheelchair, made the trip from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to see Jarrett play in the Vols homecoming game against Southern Miss.
Guarantano knelt down and put his hand on his cousin's knee, spending a few moments with him before hugging other family members and walking through Gate 21 into Neyland Stadium.
Guarantano's father, James, said Ryan's mom and dad wanted to get to see Jarrett in the Vol Walk but it's always more difficult to travel with Ryan, especially on campus, on game day, during a Vol Walk. A police escort got Ryan and his parents to Vol Walk.
Ryan was placed at the end of the Vol Walk strategically. Jarrett's dad said Jarrett didn't know they would be there.
Ryan was born 24 weeks premature. He has several health issues including epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Saturday was his first time at Neyland Stadium, James Guarantano said.
Jarrett's dad said it was a last-second decision and they didn't have a lot of time for planning. He said the stars and moon needed to align.
“I’m very proud of him, academically, socially. He’s a good boy. He’s a good football player, a good teammate. He’s a kid of great character, mom and dad are proud of him for a lot of reasons,” James said.
The redshirt freshman made his fourth start at quarterback for the Vols on Saturday night, getting for his first win as the starter.
Guarantano's teammates and coaches have been impressed by his toughness and he posted a career-best 242 yards on 18-of-23 passing last week at Kentucky.
Guarantano left the game against Southern Miss with an apparent ankle injury. The redshirt freshman Guarantano returned to the game after three plays and finished the drive, leading the Vols to a field goal.