ELWOOD, Ind. —
McAfee and Overton had to take some drastic measures to stay out of sight before the big reveal.
"We were hiding behind the cheerleaders at one point," McAfee said.
When Helpling was introduced and walked onto the track surrounding the football field, the players emerged and escorted her the rest of the way.
"They've reached out to me quite a bit," Helpling said. "It really helps, the little things. When you have a bad day and you get a message telling you that they hope you feel better, it helps me and my spirits. It helps me to stay positive about everything."
The nearly constant smile on Helpling's face makes it difficult to believe optimism ever is a problem. But the reality of her battle inevitably takes its toll.
"I have my ups and downs," Helpling said. "But I just smile through it, just don't let it bother me. I try and just have good days instead of bad days. It helps when they do stuff like this for me, obviously."
She laughed at that last line and gestured toward Overton and McAfee.
But the Colts don't see themselves as the heroes of this story.
"We learn so much more from beautiful people like Maddi here than they could ever learn from us," McAfee said. "She just kicks so much (rear), man. Whenever we walked out there, she was just so cool. If I was her, who knows how I would act? It's just very inspirational, and we're just happy to be here."