After writing letters to each of the 32 NFL football teams, an Oklahoma 12-year-old has received two pretty special replies so far.
Unsure of which NFL team to root for, Cade Pope decided to write a letter to each of the NFL franchises while sick during Christmas break, expressing his dilemma.
"When I wrote the letters I just wanted an explanation from the teams to explain why I should be their fan," Cade said. "I couldn't decide what team I liked best (and) I wanted to make my own decision."
The Yukon Middle School student, whose parents are fans of the St. Louis Rams and whose brother is a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, wrote each letter by hand over a two week period — an undertaking that Cade's mother, Heather Pope, says isn't out of character for her son.
"The daunting task of hand-writing 32 letters was right up Cade's alley!" she said of her son, who she says is also a marathon participant, year-round athlete, piano player and straight-A student.
"He's a special kid and he is very goal oriented. We purposely set the bar high for Cade because he always seems to rise to the occasion and succeed in everything he does," she added.
Of the 32 letters sent, Cade initially received only one reply, a handwritten note from Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson that said "Cade, we would be honored if our Carolina Panthers became your team. We would make you proud by the classy way we represent you."
Richardson also included a replica Panthers helmet signed by Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly, an added surprise that young Cade never expected, who thought he may only receive a response from a franchise representative or employee.
"I thought I might get some small things, but not an autographed helmet from [Kuechly], the best defensive player in the league!" he said. "And I definitely didn't think I would get a hand-written note from Mr. Richardson."
Following the news of Cade's response from the Carolina Panthers going nationwide, the family has received mainly positive comments via social media. "This was just a 12 year old boy challenging himself and NFL teams," said Heather, who never intended for her son's story to go viral.
As for Cade, life hasn't changed too much.
"People have just been texting me and my parents all the time," he said.
"At school, my friends have asked me a lot of questions and keep researching me on Google," he added. "They played the News 9 video in my speech class."
Heather said that following the news of the Carolina Panthers response, Cade was sent a very special e-mail reply this week, care of the San Francisco 49'ers.
"Mr. John York, the co-chairman of the team, wrote a very nice and personal email to Cade," she said. According to Heather, the email explained York's being from the Oklahoma and his having many family members there. Cade was excited to hear that an NFL owner is from his home state.
Cade and his family maintain that the point of his letter writing isn't the viral status of his story or even the replies that he receives, but the matter of genuinely choosing a team to call his own.
"I want to cheer on an NFL team for a lifetime," he said. "I want to attend some games for the team I pick and buy a shirt or a jersey."