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Tez tackles X-Mas


It was after Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict told seven-year-old Braylen Snider to pick out anything he wanted and put it in the shopping cart and after they couldn't find an iPad for six-year-old Brice at Toys-R-Us in Florence, Ky., when Bryan Snider realized just how special the night had been.

"I've seen the guys do stuff like this before, but they always had cameras with them," Snider recalled on Tuesday. "Vontaze privately messaged my girlfriend. He could have put it on Twitter so that everyone knew. But it was just our family and his family. It was awesome."

Twitter can be a cruel place. But not a few weeks ago, when Snider's girlfriend tagged Bryan's favorite Bengal in a tweet wanting to know how she could get her family involved in the Bengals' various holiday shopping sprees for children.

It was going to be a tight Christmas. Snider works for the city of Covington, Ky., as a landscaper and his girlfriend can't work because Brice has a brain disorder that put him in a wheelchair unable to walk or talk, or sit, or crawl while racked by 15 to 20 seizures a day.  In order to get Braylen's big gift, a PlayStation 4, Bryan sold the hunting rife his own father gave him.

"You want to give your kids what they want," is how Bryan explained every parent's dream.

Burfict sent the private message back about a week later, saying he didn't know how to hook the family up but that he would take them shopping himself. He got the Sniders' info and soon Burfict's girlfriend got in touch with Snider's girlfriend and the date was set for Monday night.

"I was nervous. This is a pro football player that I watch on TV," Snider said.

Burfict is more that to him. He's his favorite.

"Because of his football knowledge, he's so smart," Snider said. "He's everywhere around the ball. He's not too over aggressive. He lets the play unfold. He just has that knowledge."

When he showed up Burfict put everyone at ease with a few "What's up? What's up?" and the shop commenced with Braylen, a bit uncertain, trailed along by Brice and 18-month-old Brantlee.

"He just told him if you want it, put it in the cart," Snider said.

Brice knew something was up with his dad pushing him and the big 6-2 guy smiling up ahead smiling and putting stuffed animals in the cart.

"He likes Daniel Tiger," Dad said.

"What do you think Brice would like?" Burfict asked and this is kind of funny because it's the second time they've met.

A few years ago at training camp, when Bryan was at work, Brice was in his wheelchair with his mom at practice and Burfict appeared, took off his gloves, signed them, and put them on Brice's lap.

But on Monday night, Bryan mentioned an iPad. It's the one way that Brice can communicate with his family with APPs that help him respond to yes and no questions. The one the Sniders had was so old that the screen was miniscule and the speakers were just about shot.

"We couldn't find one," Bryan Snider said. "So Vontaze gave me money to buy him an iPad. I couldn't believe it."

At the end of the night, there were three carts full and Bryan Snider's favorite Bengal had come up with another big assist in the open field.

"He didn't just help our Christmas," he said, "he made our Christmas."

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