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Manhandled
Tim Layden
September 29, 1997
Sparked by a jarring defense and the inspiration of a little sister, Florida again pushed around Peyton Manning and Tennessee
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September 29, 1997

Manhandled

Sparked by a jarring defense and the inspiration of a little sister, Florida again pushed around Peyton Manning and Tennessee

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Tony, who grew up in Cincinnati, was six years old when Tari was born, the last of six children of their mother, Arizona, and father, Houston. At two, Tari was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy, which was probably caused by oxygen deprivation during birth. Her left side is very weak. She walks with a limp, and her left arm just hangs when she moves. Tari would often play in the same parks where Tony played basketball and baseball with his friends, and when other kids would make fun of Tari, Tony would take them on. Then, one afternoon when he was 15, Tony took a different approach. "I decided not to fight," he says. "I just told them all to try to do what Tari does. Try to tie your shoes with one hand."

She would reward him for his courage with some of her own in the fall of 1991, when Tony was a sophomore at Winton Woods High. At home after football practice one night he had to run to use the bathroom constantly and was eventually taken to the hospital, where doctors told him that he was diabetic and would require two insulin shots a day for the rest of his life. He was dumbstruck and consumed with self-pity. Then nine-year-old Tari visited him at the hospital. "She walked in, looked at me and said. 'Oh, don't be silly, you're going to be O.K.,' " says Tony. "I mean, how could I feel sorry for myself after that?" Tari and Tony inspire each other now, she pushing him to compete and succeed, he reminding her that she's not alone in her daily struggle.

It was dark and humid on Saturday evening when George popped through a metal door beneath the south end zone of the stadium. Three fans handed him a poster to sign and then politely left. Twenty yards away Arizona stood wearing her son's white number 1 jersey from the 19% Fiesta Bowl. "He waited for his time to shine," she said, gently nodding. "Yes, he did; he waited for his time."

A slender teenage girl approached from Tony's left, smiling demurely. Tari put her strong right arm around Tony's waist as he pulled her close with his left arm and kissed her on the cheek. Together they swayed gently in the night, and only then was Tony's newfound stardom made full.

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