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Referee peps up high school football team but player doesn't know it's his deployed dad in disguise
The military dad had been deployed for a year and wanted to surprise his son – so he dressed up as a referee.
Eduardo Gaskell
12.03.21

Army Major Fred Grooms Jr., despite his busy schedule, always attends his son’s important events.

But an entire year in Kuwait meant he had to break that promise. Major Grooms Jr. decided to make up for it by surprising his son, Fred Grooms III.

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Grooms III plays defensive back and the October football game at Helena High School was the place for his dad’s planned surprise.

Major Grooms Jr. was in Kuwait at the time and was scheduled to return home in November. His commander gave him permission to leave mid-October. It was his son’s last game of the season and he wasn’t going to miss it.

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He got home in the early hours, sneaking into his house where he hid his bags and himself up until his kids left for school.

With his son still in class, Major Grooms Jr. put on a football official’s uniform. It was the only time available and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Major Grooms Jr. got to the school at around 5 p.m. during game day, hiding himself in a small room in the field house.

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Major Grooms Jr. made his way to the sidelines when the players headed to the field house. He wore a mask under his official’s cap and stayed clear from the players so as not to spoil the moment.

A little before 6 o’clock, the players made their way to the middle of the field. Fred III thought it was just a routine coin toss. Little did he know that his father was one of the men in stripes!

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The head referee then instructed the players to memorize the referees’ faces as he conducted the coin toss.

Fred was weirded out but he followed instructions.

“I was kind of weirded out,” the 6’2 player recalled to NBC News. “The fact that they told me to look at every single one of the refs and memorize their face.”

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He did as told but since his dad still had his mask on, Fred didn’t recognize him. Major Grooms Jr. finally took his mask off to reveal himself, father and son finally reunited and locked in a tight embrace!

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It was a moment worthy of applause and the crowd did not disappoint.One of the officials even thanked the emotional father and son for “letting us be a part of this.”

“Watching him walk up unaware was really exciting, but then also kind of nerve-wracking because I hadn’t seen him in almost a year,” Major Grooms Jr. said. “When I left he was three inches shorter than me, and when I came back he was two inches taller than me.”

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Major Grooms has 30 days to spend with his family. He has one final deployment before retiring.

“I’ve had a great career in the military, but I look forward to retirement,” he says.

Helena High School’s athletic program posted on Facebook saying,

“Thank you for your service Mr. Grooms and we are glad you are home!”

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Check out the heartwarming reunion in the video below!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

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By Eduardo Gaskell
hi@sbly.com
Eduardo Gaskell is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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