HOUSTON - With one phone call on Monday University of Houston Coach Tom Herman created a memory for six-year-old Elliot Raffetto that he will never forget.
Elliot’s mother responded to a post on the University of Houston football Facebook page on Sunday and that led to her son’s special moment.
“Just posted a picture of him and he had his U of H jersey (on), holding up six fingers and just said 'my kiddo just celebrated his sixth birthday and insisted on a U of H (football) party,’” said Shannon Raffetto, Elliot’s mother.
After she posted her son’s picture with the note on Facebook, a representative from UH responded, asking how Coach Herman could reach Elliot, because he wanted to wish him happy birthday.
“I was speechless,” said Shannon Raffetto. “ Almost thinking that they maybe over-promised and hadn't even talked to him yet, because I was like ‘ he's really busy. They just won the day before, and they have a big game coming up this weekend.’ So I gave him the number and I waited just to see and he called Monday, the next day.”
Shannon, who like her husband graduated from UH in 2005, was stunned.
“It was pretty amazing,” she said. “I think I was a little starstruck whenever I answered the phone.”
Elliott was already at school but that did not stop the UH coach from getting the job done.
“He was insistent that he get back in touch with us, and that he get to wish him a happy birthday,” Shannon Raffetto said.
“He even said ‘I hope that he's okay that it's a few days late.’ I said ‘no, my gosh he's going to be over the moon that you're calling to wish him a happy birthday.'"
Later that day the two spoke by telephone, and Elliot immediately recognized the coach’s voice.
His father listens to many of Herman’s news conferences and postgame interviews.
“It was very special, indescribable that somebody as busy as he is would take a few minutes to call a little boy that he doesn't even know and just do a really good, awesome, cool thing that he's going to remember forever,” Elliot’s mother said.
It was a gesture that Herman enjoyed just as much as Elliot.
“It’s one of the fun parts of my job, to be able to affect not just the players on our team, but the entire community, Coog Nation if you will,” Herman said.
“Hopefully, brighten a young man’s day. He fired me up, being six-years-old and wanting a Cougar-themed birthday party.”
Herman offered one more message for Elliot.
“Happy birthday, the Coogs are rooting for you whatever you do in life,” Herman said.
Elliot’s mother had a message of her own for Herman.
“Just thank you so much,” said Shannon Raffetto. “He's obviously a great man and a good leader for this football team. The players I think are really lucky to have him and fans, obviously we're lucky too.
“We're a proud U of H family.”