‘Touchdown’ Jake Butt, Wolverines connect with young fan

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jake Butt visits with 10-year-old Jesse Baker of  Titusville, Fla., during Michigan's practice Tuesday.

Bradenton, Fla. -- During a brief break in Michigan's football practice Tuesday, tight end Jake Butt sat down on the field and 10-year-old Jesse Baker climbed on his lap.

Jesse, whose mother, Erin, a Michigan fan who drove three hours from Titusville to attend Tuesday's practice, has Down Syndrome.  He befriended several of the Wolverines two years ago during youth day at UM and his mother said Butt and quarterback John O'Korn are now his favorite players.

“They're all his best friends," Erin said as Jesse tried to pull her onto the practice field. "He develops an attachment to people and he's so adorable and clings to people really fast. He watches them (play) every week."

While Jesse sat with Butt he gave the tight end a new nickname -- "Touchdown."

Jesse first befriended former Michigan players Jeremy Gallon and Devin Gardner. The family remains close to Gallon, who has dined at their home and once joined Erin to pick up Jesse from school.

About a year and a half ago, Jesse underwent surgery for sleep apnea and had a portion of his tongue removed. He received a direct video message on Instagram from Butt and teammates Erik Magnuson and Kyle Kalis.

“They said, 'We heard you just had surgery. Feel better soon,'" Erin said of the video message.

Erin, who grew up near Grand Rapids, is a lifelong Michigan fan. Clearly, Jesse is, too.

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