CHRISTIAN ZUPCIC JUST WANTS TO BE A PART OF THE TEAM
Those are the words of Cuthbertson Middle School seventh grade football player, Christian Zupcic. Life
and sports don’t come quite as easy for Christian as they do many others. The son of Bon and Becky Zupcic
has a condition referred to as 16th Chromosome Deletion. There is a wide range of information that
detail what 16th Chromosome Deletion is and the side effects and conditions range from person to person.
The way it has affected Christian started with intellectual delay and slower fine motor skill developments.
During his early years he did not advance with things physically as most people his age. For example,
Christian did not walk for the first time until he was 18 month old. He had to go to special programs
to teach him how to pick up things such as toys and eating utensils. He used to go to speech classes
regularly and was in extra resource classes during his regular class time. He has since needed those classes
less and less since he began middle school. Reading comprehension and mathematical skills are the most
challenging due to the intellectual delays.
Chances are if you have been around this area for the last decade, the Zupcic name is going to ring
a bell. Christian’s older brothers, Tyler and Drake, were local baseball stars. Tyler completed a wonderful
career at Appalachian State and now works in Baseball Operations for East Carolina University.
Drake currently plays at Appalachian State. His sister Olivia is a student at Cuthbertson High School.
His father Bob played in the Major Leagues for the Boston Red Sox. Listening to the family, there is no
question in their eyes, Christian is the real hero.
On the field, Christian is very determined playing left tackle and defensive end.
“I have played football for three years, since the 5th grade. I loved to watch the Panther’s play growing
up. Luke Kuechly is my favorite player and I wanted to be like him.”
Christian loves his time on the football field. Christian’s parents add; “Because he feels part
of something, part of a team. Every single one of his teammates are his buddies. He never once takes his
helmet off during the game. He is always ready to play. Football is a very structured game and structure
keeps Christian calm. It brings comfort and a peace of mind to Christian because he knows he is
just like his friends when he is on the field.”
“I know the better I do in the game, the longer I will get to play. I want to say good job to my teammates
when they do good.”
Bob and Becky added; “To be a part of something is all he really wants. Even when he is not in
the game, he is standing, with his helmet on, right next to the coach ready to go in when his number is
called. He might not understand all the intricacies of the game, but if you tell him not to let someone get
past him, I can promise you no one is going to get past him.”
Christian faces challenges inside the classroom.
“It affects me a lot in school. When I try to learn things, I don’t understand a lot of things right away
and it gets me frustrated. I have to remind myself to be calm and really listen to my teacher.”
Mom Becky Zupcic adds, “Christian has to work almost twice as hard in the
classroom as most of his peers. That is not to take anything away from all the
hard work that his classmates do each day, but Christian does a great job in doing
his best to keep up with the rest of his class. Athletically it does not affect him
as much as it does in other daily tasks. His desire to want to be like his teammates
on the field leads Christian to get to practice a half hour early every day
and has never missed a practice since he began playing. He might not have the
same athletic skills as others due to some of his physical limitations but that will
never stop him from working his hardest.”
The football field is Christian’s comfort zone, the one place, he feels at home
and is comfortable. In other areas of life and school, the challenges are very
Let’s let his parents share more.
“As we talked about before his struggles are focused mainly on reading comprehension
and mathematical skills. He is sometimes not able to move at the
same pace as most of his classmates and requires extra time to do assignments.
Mr. Garner does a lot of one on one time with Christian and he always talks about
how much fun “Mr. G” makes learning. Christian requires extra patience when it
comes to learning, when he senses you are getting frustrated with him he begins
to shut down. Mr. G and all of his teachers do such a wonderful job helping guide
him through the coursework and really making him feel like his peers.”
Christian has been very lucky, he has an amazing family that provides so
much love. The siblings are so loving of their brother, Becky says.
“They have always been very positive with Christian. They treated him with
kindness, love and guidance always. Never once have they ever treated him
any different. It took Christian a while to begin to speak but they would still
always play with him and read him books when they put him to sleep, even if he
didn’t talk back. At their games, Christian would be somewhere off to the side
playing with his trucks, but as soon as they would be close to coming up to bat,
Christian would know and would come running up to watch them hit. He has
traveled all over watching them play games and never once complained. With
Tyler and Drake, we would be running all over the house looking for their gear
before games and practices. With Christian we never have to worry about that.
For all of his football games and practices his stuff is laid out he night before,
including his water bottle. He washes his own uniform so he knows it’ll be ready
for the next game.”
Becky adds; “Christian has the biggest heart and is the most genuine person
on the earth. He doesn’t judge at all. He only see’s the best in anything and every
one. He will do whatever it takes to make sure that everyone else is doing okay
before himself. He takes care of all of us with his love and genuine kindness.
With Tyler and Drake. I was concerned more with about how they performed (I
have grown a lot since then as well!) and with Christian he has taught me to just
enjoy the moment, the little beauties of the game. There isn’t a day that goes by
where our whole family can’t learn from something that Christian does.”
One closing story that really speaks volumes about Christian Zupcic and his
place in life. It relates to his desire to one day become a fireman.
Becky tells the story, “There has never been any other occupation Christian
has said he wants to do. As long as we can remember all he has ever wanted to
be was a fireman. There is nothing that is going to stop him from it. He loves to
help people and has always, his whole life he has put people in front of himself.
A funny story to share that explains every thing perfectly, We had a kitchen fire a
few months ago (everyone was completely fine-we only lost some appliances), we
were not home and as we drove up and saw the smoke Christian’s first thought
was to run inside and make sure everything was ok. Even at 13 he was ready to
run into the house and smoke to make sure that nothing else was wrong.”
We have no doubt that Christian will achieve his dream and help our community
as a wonderful fireman one day.
Christian’s mother Becky offered a few closing comments that I believe speak
volumes and serve as great advice for our entire community.
“The most important things we have learned is that it’s not about wins and
losses on the field. It’s not about how many A’s your child gets in school. It’s
about seeing your child congratulate their friends when they score a touchdown.
It’s about seeing Christian get to put on his football helmet every day and be a
part of something bigger than himself. There are so many parents out there who
focus on the results and not all of the beautiful things that come with the process
of seeing your child enjoy what they love. We’re not perfect parents and we’re not
a perfect family by any means, but we can promise you that we wouldn’t be the
same family if we weren’t blessed by having Christian come into our life.”
Christian Zupcic – you, my friend, are a true Hometown Hero. You are
blessed with a wonderful family that loves you very much. More importantly,
they are blessed to have you as their son. I cannot wait to watch you continue
to grow and spread your love and care across the community. Everyone reading
this story will be so proud to know about you and your big heart!