CUMBERLAND — What do President Barack Obama, Princess Diana, Martin Luther King Jr. and the former manager of the Greely High School varsity boys basketball team have in common?
Patrick Thibodeau, the former team manager, is featured with those luminaries in Bon Jovi’s new music video for the song “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” a four-minute film showcasing people who have triumphed over adversity and inspired others to do so, too.
In the case of Thibodeau, who has Down syndrome, the basketball game in which he hit two three-pointers is part of the video.
Thibodeau’s performance in that Feb. 3 basketball game attracted national attention. The then-senior had been team manager for four years, and coach Ken Marks decided to put him into that final home game, on Senior Night, to give Thibodeau a chance to shine with the other players with whom he’d often practiced.
“He’s a celebrity around here,” Perry Thibodeau, Patrick’s father and the team statistician, said Monday. “He’s the man.”
It was a particularly special night since Perry had been temporarily released from the hospital after suffering a stroke two weeks before and was able to witness his son’s performance.
Thibodeau buried his first 3-pointer in the opening quarter and watched the rest of the Greely vs. Gray-New Gloucester game from the sidelines. That was, until chanting from the audience urged Marks to put the cheerful teen back in the game as the fourth quarter ticked away. Sam Thompson gave up his starting position to allow Thibodeau to play.
With seconds remaining, Thibodeau delivered with another three, driving the crowd wild and earning him a place on the shoulders of his teammates as they carried him proudly off the court.
And that was only the beginning.
Local TV stations aired the clip of Thibodeau’s accomplishment, and the story spread to national media like USA Today, “Inside Edition” and the “Today” show. Several awards and trips followed, as well as a week spent enthusiastically at Celtics basketball training camp, and ultimately a call from Radical Media, producers of the Bon Jovi video.
Patricia Thibodeau, Patrick’s mother, said the company saw her son’s clip on YouTube before contacting her and Perry for permission to use it.
“To get this phone call, and then looking at (the clip),” Patricia said, “It’s like, you know, that was really the best time of his life right there.”
This past weekend, the family got to see Thibodeau and Bon Jovi rock out on VH1’s top 20 videos countdown. The video had just made its way into the top 20.
“He’ll come and check out the news,” Perry said, “because he loves seeing himself.”
Reflecting on the game that made him an overnight hit, Thibodeau on Monday spoke not of his performance, but about his teammates – evidence that the camaraderie he enjoyed on the court that February night will resonate with him for some time to come.
“For it to have gone this far is just incredible,” Patricia Thibodeau said. “It’s a memory we’ll be able to take with us forever.”
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.