Two minutes around Grayson Russell’s presence and it’s easy to figure out he’s not a guy who likes the spotlight. Too late for that. The San Antonio Christian School student caught the glare of the spotlight at the beginning of his sophomore for reasons unplanned and unwanted. 

“I think that takeaway is God has a plan for everything,” Grayson said. 

According to the history-loving defensive back who also plays basketball, he was not well after their first football game in 2018. Flu? Allergies? What was it? His parents, Stephen and Melissa Russell wanted answers. And, after a run through physicians, they didn’t have any. 

“We just don’t know what it is, but it’s bad,” Melissa recalled. “You just don’t ever think you’re going to hear that as a parent. We’re sorry. We’re sorry.” 

Grayson had bacterial meningitis, but it was a rare. “The bacteria in my mouth somehow got to my brain,“ he said. “I had a hole in my throat.” 

He was in and out of consciousness. Eating and drinking were out of the question. 

“They eventually determined that he had, at least, 13 brain abscesses covering every region of his brain,” Melissa said. 

Melissa said husband Stephen became her rock. The couple has three boys and a girl. The four make up two sets of twins. 

Grayson’s school, where Melissa works and his siblings attend, went into support mode. They prayed and extended faith toward the ICU where Grayson lay in the hands of the Almighty. 

“As a school, I think we had to channel that help and that desire to do something because everyone wanted to respond and help away,” Brad Parrot said. 

Parrott is the athletic director at San Antonio Christian School. He’d also coached Grayson. One Saturday he got an ephinany following a practice Grayson would have normally attended. “Just had the idea of taking two loves of this family,” he said. “Their love of Auburn athletics and their love for SACS athletics.” 

‘War Lion’ was born. It combined Auburn University’s ‘War Eagle’ with SACS’ mascot. Parrott said the ‘War Lion’ is a battle cry to rise up and overcome. 

A donation mix from Adidas and Vivroux Sports made 500 t-shirts available with the mantra to defray medical costs for the Russell family. 

The family said their prayers were answered the day they checked into the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Grayson was on the mend. But he was still in the hospital, unable to play sports or even make to Homecoming activities. 

“When all your friends are about to go to homecoming and you’re having to sit there and not participate in it,” Katherine Price said. “Why not give part of Homecoming and give back to him?” 

Price is a grade ahead of Grayson. She’s his friend. Her sister is his significant other. They were among the crew who wanted to put together a Homecoming experience Grayson would not forget. 

Joel Allen has been Grayson’s friend since the first grade. They became football teammates later in life. “If I was in that situation, I would want my friends to do that for me,” he said. 

The goal was to have fun, distract Grayson from his trying experience and show their friend the depth of their love. The Homecoming idea could not have come at a better time. Grayson, who could not been able to eat or drink for 28 days, was now able to do so. 

Melissa said doctors found a fix for the hole in her son’s throat. Thanks to coordination of friends and their parents, a small group of friends came to the Children’s Hospital in San Antonio dressed in their Homecoming finery. Grayson even dressed up. The group took pictures and made their way to the hospital cafeteria for Homecoming dinner. 

“Hands held. Heads bowed. Freddy’s Burgers on the table,” Melissa said. “And that was the best Homecoming ever.” 

Grayson, who is a huge Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburger fan, was amazed he was eating his favorite treat with his favorite people. 

“They will be friends for life because they were with me through my struggles,” Grayson said. “And it was amazing to feel love like that.” 

‘War Lion’ remains a mantra at the SACS. But no one will forget the student whose pain gave birth to it. Grayson returned to school and the football field this year. He was also able to go to a normal Homecoming, even though the memories from Oct 8, 2018 will last a lifetime. 

“I guarantee you no student that was there will ever forget that one or any parent that was there watching,” Melissa said. 

Want to nominate a kid who with a unique or outstanding story? Send Marvin an email at


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