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Photo of high school football player helping opponent goes viral

A brief moment of sportsmanship between opposing football teams shows the power of kindness.
Courtesy Wendy Hegtvedt Luft
/ Source: TODAY

One high school football player in Iowa is proving that a little empathy goes a long way.

During an early September Friday night football game, Charles City wide receiver Mario Hoefer was cramping pretty badly.

"I thought I was drinking enough water, but I wasn't," Hoefer, 18, told TODAY Parents.

So when Hoefer saw a player from the opposing New Hampton team go down during the fourth quarter grabbing his leg, he knew exactly what was happening.

"I saw it all happen in the play," Hoefer explained. "I'm running from the far end to get over there and I just see him go down. At first I was running to high five my teammates, but I saw him grab his calf."

Hoefer told TODAY that after the play, each team ran to the sidelines.

"I saw him go down and I didn't see anyone go over there to help him," Hoefer said, adding that he knew he needed to stay. "I know how this feels, (and wanted) to help him get through this cramp until someone came over."

Wendy Hegtvedt Luft, whose son plays with Hoefer, saw the moment from the stands.

"It was one of those nights a lot of kids were going down with cramps and really struggling with them," she explained. "Mario was stretching him out and soon the trainers came running over from the other side of the field."

Luft told TODAY that fellow parents and fans cheered from the stands seeing Hoefer's sportsmanship.

"The whole stands were like 'Awww' so I snapped a photo," Luft said. "That is something that I want to remember."

The photo, which shows Hoefer stretching out opponent Carter Steinlage, has since gone viral and been shared across the country.

"I was not expecting it to blow up, I just wanted to help him," Hoefer said.

While the high school senior is "keeping his options open" for future football plans, he told TODAY one thing he knows for certain.

"I would do it the same over and over again," Hoefer said of helping his opponent. "We've played each other for years now. It was more like a brotherly thing to help him out."