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UNC football player and classmate with Down syndrome cultivate friendship

In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 North Carolina's Des Lawrence (2) and Ryan Switzer (3) sit for a team photo during the NCAA college football team's media day in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 North Carolina's Des Lawrence (2) and Ryan Switzer (3) sit for a team photo during the NCAA college football team's media day in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome, AP

Ryan Switzer is a senior receiver and star punt returner at the University of North Carolina, and one of his longest standing friendships is with a man with Down syndrome.

The two first met when Switzer approached Cliff Reid in a middle-school gym while he was shooting hoops. Switzer later joined an after-school club where volunteers interact with individuals with special needs, enabling the bond between he and Reid to form.

On Thursday, the two were featured in an article on ESPN.com.

Switzer's friendship has helped a once-shy Reid to make friends and cultivate a rich social life.

“He’s blossomed, and I owe a lot of it to Ryan,” Reid’s father, Clifton Reid II, said according to ESPN. “It’s something I couldn’t do. He’s helped my child develop. These are things normal teenagers don’t do, and it comes from his heart.”

After UNC's Oct. 22 game, Reid walked into the locker room with Switzer wearing Switzer's old jersey and Switzer's football helmet.

“He’s done more for me than I could ever do for him,” Switzer said, according to ESPN. “He’s been my best friend for 11 years. He doesn’t care what I do on the football field. He loves me for who I am.”

Read the full article on ESPN here.