VIDEO: Teen Football Player Thinks It’s Just a Normal Coin Toss—Until He Sees Army Dad Dressed as Ref

TIMEDecember 15, 2021

What started as a coin toss before a high school football game turned into a surprise reunion between a footballer son and his Army dad returning from deployment overseas.

Servicemember Fred Grooms Sr. had never watched his son play a high school football game before; this would be a first. It would also be Fred Grooms Jr.’s last game of the season.

The freshman player from Helena, Alabama, wasn’t expecting his father to return from Kuwait until the end of October when the young defensive back walked out onto midfield to shake hands with opposing team members, meet the referees, and have the coin toss.

So unexpecting was Grooms Jr. that he almost missed his father’s familiar face on the field that day.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Helena High School)

(Courtesy of Helena High School)

Fred Sr. had gone to great lengths to plan the surprise in secret; purchasing a referee’s uniform and planning with game officials, the father arranged to meet the players for the coin toss—which was videorecorded and later posted on Facebook.

“All officials, come in here,” a head official instructed the players after the handshake. “Make sure you get all of the officials’ faces down. Know them good.”

Donning his faux ref’s uniform, Grooms Sr. couldn’t hold back his smile; his son, wide eyed, suddenly recognized his dad and in an instant embraced him for a joyous reunion. The younger Grooms held on for a good 20 seconds.

The head ref offered thanks for allowing them to be part of the heartrending occasion.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Helena High School)

“It was overwhelming. My son isn’t the outwardly emotional type,” Grooms Sr. later told Shelby County Reporter. “He’s the one who won’t hug you, kiss you. So for him to hug me as tight as he did last night was really something special.”

Grooms Sr., a 32-year Army serviceman, is used to spending long periods away from his family. This reunion was particularly special as he hadn’t seen them for over a year, the longest stretch he’d ever spent away from his son, he said.

Meanwhile, his wife and kids had had to move across the country on their own, while he was overseas this time.

“I wasn’t originally supposed to leave until the end of October,” he told the outlet. “I understood my son’s final football game was coming up so I asked if I could leave a couple weeks early. I told my commander in Kuwait, and they were in agreement and said I could leave two weeks early.”

Not letting the cat out of the bag ahead of the surprise moment was tricky, though, particularly because he was so anxious and excited about seeing his family after so long.

“I will tell you I didn’t keep my composure. We hadn’t seen each other in a year. That’s the longest we’ve been away from each other since he was 5 or 6,” he added. “Most of the time it was 90–120 days. So it was more difficult than normal.”

Share your stories with us at, and continue to get your daily dose of inspiration by signing up for the Epoch Inspired newsletter at

Epoch Inspired staff cover stories of hope that celebrate kindness, traditions, and triumph of the human spirit, offering valuable insights into life, culture, family and community, and nature.