A college football player brought some surprising guests to his final game — and warmed the hearts of many fans in the process.
Michigan State University cornerback Josh Butler walked into Spartan Stadium as a player for the last time on Saturday — a milestone he was forced to celebrate without his parents, both of whom died during his college career.
CNN reported that it's a tradition on many teams for seniors to enter their final game with family members, but without that option, Butler had to get creative. That's why the 23-year-old was seen strutting onto the field with Roxy and Remi, his two dogs.
Michigan State reporter David Harns captured the moment in a video posted to Twitter, and the footage immediately went viral. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had been viewed more than five million times.
"Suffice it to say, Josh's story has resonated over the last 48 hours and he's a wonderful representation of MSU," Harns tweeted Monday.
Butler, a fifth-year senior, lost his father in November of 2017, just hours before the defensive back was set to start one of his first games for the team, according to the Lansing State Journal. Despite being crushed by the news, Butler chose to play the game in his dad's honor — and Michigan State won 27-24.
"I just felt I had to play for him," Butler recalled to the Lansing State Journal last week.
The 23-year-old lost his mother in April of 2019, after she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Before his mom's death, Butler adopted Roxy and Remi.
Butler's dogs stole the show on Saturday, strutting into the stadium as their owner escorted them around the field. The defensive back even posted a video of himself dancing with the animals, both of which were wearing their own jerseys.
The post gave fans a chance to pour in their support, with many offering words of encouragement for the senior.
"You are an inspiration and a blessing! Thank you for reinforcing that dogs are family — and for adopting these two gorgeous dogs! Your parents are smiling down and so proud of you," one person commented.
"Bruh I love it. It brought tears to my eyes. I wish you nothing but success," another wrote.
For Butler's part, he told the Lansing State Journal he tries to see the positive parts of the tragedy he's faced, adding that his teammates have been a major support system.
"We talk about the sadness and the negativity about a lot of things because that's what they remember the most, but there's also positivity behind any story," Butler said. "There's always a rise after the fall."