ORLANDO, FLORIDA – For most, Special Olympics flag football is an opportunity for athletes and Unified partners to come together and take their skills to the gridiron for friendly competition.
But for Team Mississippi and their quarterback, 25-year-old Stefano Subauste, flag football is a more than just a sport at the 2022 USA Games.
It’s a way of life.
Team Mississippi, comprised of people affiliated with the University of Mississippi, carries the weight of their school’s decorated football program on their shoulders. As a member of college football’s preeminent league, the Southeastern Conference, expectations are high on the squad to play well and bring a medal back to the Magnolia State.
And there’s perhaps no better representation of Team Mississippi than Stefano, a vivacious leader with a heart of gold who can toss touchdown passes with the best of them and deliver objectively the strongest hugs on the playing field at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
A native of Madison, Mississippi, Stefano takes on his leadership role with a natural grace. After all, he was elected 2019 Mr. Ole Miss by his peers during his undergraduate years, the highest honor a male member of the University of Mississippi community can hold.
Stefano said he campaigned for the 2019 Mr. Ole Miss crown on the principle of inclusion.
“Inclusion is important to me because we should be able to associate with everyone, regardless of who they are,” Stefano said. “This message resonates with people because at the end of the day, everyone wants to be included in something.”
Stefano has been a Special Olympics athlete since 2019 and began participating in flag football during his senior year at Ole Miss. He’s an avid supporter of the school’s athletics program and can recite the scores from Ole Miss football games of yesteryear with absolute ease.
He said flag football provides an opportunity for him and his friends to grow closer together while playing their favorite sport.
“It’s fun to watch and making the crowd go wild with your play is an amazing feeling."
But don’t let his football prowess fool you, Stefano is quite the scholar as well.
He graduated from Ole Miss in 2020 with a 3.34 GPA and a degree in mathematics. And now, he’s taking online classes from Michigan Technological University to obtain a master’s degree in applied statistics.
One of his lifelong goals is to combine two of his passions—sports and statistics—into a job.
“I’d love to one day be able to help a sports television crew during their broadcast of a game,” Stefano said.
As if his athleticism and academics weren’t enough, Stefano was a trombone player in the Ole Miss band for all four of his undergraduate years.
His favorite song is The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” and the game after he was named Mr. Ole Miss in 2019, it was Stefano who got the honor of conducting the band’s rendition of the classic tune in front of 60,000 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
What a fitting song for one of the most extraordinary athletes who participated in these 2022 USA Games.
For anyone who has let Stefano into their hearts undoubtedly starts to make this world a better place.