NORMAN — Norman High School football player Josh Farley received the surprise of a lifetime Friday night as he stood under the bright lights of Harve Collins Field.
The Norman senior walked hand-in-hand onto the field with fellow team captains and the school mascot, a fully-masked tiger, for the coin toss. Just moments later, Josh discovered the tiger was none other than his father, Jeff Farley, returned from a deployment overseas with the U.S. Air Force.
Towering a full head over his father, Josh, 17, immediately embraced his father in a bear hug.
“I’m in shock,” Josh said. “I’m just happy as can be.”
Josh’s siblings, Mikayla Farley and John Dean, weren’t far behind to greet their dad.
Mikayla, a 15-year-old Norman High sophomore, wiped away tears as she clung to her dad’s side. John, 18 years old, beamed as his focus shifted between his father and his fully-uniformed little brother.
“Actually, I had a weird feeling all day he was back,” John said.
The family, including Jeff’s wife, Jennifer Farley, hadn’t seen Jeff for five months while he was deployed with the Air Force in Quatar as a flight nurse.
Both Josh and John said they are grateful for the sacrifices their father made to serve in the military. John said in the few months Jeff was gone, he missed John’s graduation from Lexington High School and Josh’s first football game of his senior year.
“He lost a lot of time when he left, but I definitely look up to him for it,” John said. “It’s amazing. I’m definitely proud to call him my dad.”
Jennifer said the surprise wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the football team coaches and football booster club.
“You always see those little surprises on the news and stuff and I just kind of thought it’d be fun to do that,” Jennifer said. “... His coach, Coach (Greg) Nation, came up with this idea and I loved the idea.”
As for the future, Jeff’s plans are simple.
“We’re just going to hang out,” he said, smiling. “It doesn’t matter.”