This high school football star lines up for the coin toss — but then he recognizes the ‘honorary referee’

October 9, 2017 1:30 pm Last Updated: October 9, 2017 3:52 pm

It was a big night for the Egersheim family. Cole, a 17-year-old senior at Jonathan Law High in Milford, Connecticut, was the tight end for his school’s football team in the big game against Bethel High School. His twin sister, Olivia, was also on the field as a cheerleader.

They were ready. Cole took to the field with his teammates for the coin toss.

Suddenly, the players were introduced to the game’s ‘honorary referee.’

Cole looked at the new ref and noticed there was something … unusual about him.

“He was wearing dark sunglasses at 7 p.m., and I was like, ‘what the heck?’” he recalled to USA Today.

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He told ABC News that he was was “really confused at first.” But then, the honorary ref was introduced as “Joe,” and the sunglassed man couldn’t help but crack up.

Cole suddenly realized who the ref was.

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It was his father—finally home from military leave!

Master Sgt. Joe Egersheim is a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Army, and for the last year was stationed in Kuwait, away from his family. When he returned earlier than expected, he couldn’t help but pull the surprise of a lifetime for his two kids.

“I knew it was him because I recognized his laugh,” Cole told ABC. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ then I bent down and just absorbed it for a second, then got up and hugged him.”

“I was just so happy to see him,” he told USA Today.

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And once she realized what was happening, Olivia ran in from the sidelines to make it a true family reunion.

“I was so excited to finally see him after a year,” she told ABC News. “When I saw that Cole realized it was our dad, I ran out there because I wasn’t expecting him there.”

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Their mother, Robin, was in on the whole surprise and helped her husband set it up. She watched from the stands, thrilled that the plan was a success.

“It was priceless and that’s really what I wanted,” she told ABC. “It was very special to see Joe surprise them like that. We’re very close to our kids.”

“It was just an awesome, awesome feeling.”

And to make the night even more perfect: the team won, 34-21!

Was it dad’s surprise that gave them the edge they needed? Joe seems to think so.

“When I was talking to him, I said, ‘You gonna give me this game?’ and he said, ‘Yep, this is your game,’” Joe told ABC News. “My son kept his word.”

“He’s a heck of a football player. I’m very proud of him.”

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