Among the thousands of fans at the NCAA D-II Championship Game in Florence, Ala., was Shirley Luton, one of the Gorillas’ biggest fans.

“It was the best day of my life!” Luton said.

It happened because of the friendship of long-time PSU Police Officer Ricky Faucett and his family.

Faucett said he has known Luton, who attends every PSU athletic event he can, for about 10 years.

“I go to football games, the basketball games and track and field,” Luton said.

“I saw Shirley at a football game and he was telling me we were going to win,” Faucett said.

“I saw him at Ron’s (IGA) a few days later and asked him if he was going to the next football game. He said he didn’t know because the tickets were getting expensive.”

Each PSU employee gets one free ticket to athletic events, so Faucett began giving his to Luton. The friendship grew and now includes Luton riding with Faucett in his campus police car at the head of the Homecoming parade.

As the exciting season neared its end, Faucett and his wife, Tracy McMurray-Faucett, planned a special surprise for Luton – a trip to the championship game with the whole Faucett family.

“It was a long ride, but it was worth it,” McMurray-Faucett said. “Shirley had the best time.”

To make the trip even more memorable, the Faucetts took Luton, a big Elvis fan, to Graceland.

As a special memento of the trip, the Faucetts gave Luton a football autographed by the PSU football players and coaches and his ticket to the championship game when he visited their home on Christmas Eve.

“Seeing his face and seeing his excitement brought joy,” McMurray-Faucett said. “It really made the holidays special.”

In recognition of his friendship with Luton, Faucett has received the Friends of CLASS LTD Award. CLASS LTC is an organization that provides services for persons with developmental and other disabilities in Cherokee, Crawford, Labette and Montgomery counties.