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He attended 542 consecutive SMU football games. Then a health battle stopped the streak. But his friends are there in his place

Paul Layne is perhaps best known as SMU’s superfan – a title bestowed upon him by ESPN. Now, he's battling a serious health concern in the ICU.

DALLAS — Melissa O’Brien calls her colleague and friend Paul Layne “a bit of a superhero.”

“He just has the most golden heart,” she said.  

He is beloved in many circles -- especially among realtors like herself.

His genuine caring for others and his zest for life make for superhero qualities.

His unending loyalty to his SMU Mustangs make him an undisputed superfan.

“Paul has been to every SMU football game, consecutively, for 50 years – since 1972 when he was a college freshman and a cheerleader,” O’Brien said.

But about a month before the season was to start, Layne, a realtor with Dave Perry-Miller, developed a serious blood clot.

Credit: Dave Perry-Miller Realty
Paul Layne's photo on the Dave Perry-Miller website

He’s since undergone intestinal surgery and continues a difficult battle in the ICU.

Saturday night should have been game number 543, but the streak had to come to an end.

Sort of.

O’Brien and a group of friends and realtors had t-shirts made that read, “I am Paul Layne.”

They printed out pictures of their friend in an SMU jersey, bought tickets to the season opener at the University of North Texas in Denton and went to the game in his place.

“It was our goal that he not miss so we gathered the troops and in his steed we attended,” she said.

Credit: Melissa O'Brien
Layne's friends say they will attend every SMU game - home and away - until he is able to return to the stands.

The tributes did not stop with friends in the stands.

The team wore Layne’s initials on their helmets.

A page dedicated to keeping people updated about his battle shows photos from other groups who attended in his place, too.

O’Brien and the realtors will attend every game in their friend’s place until he can be there himself.

They’re coordinating travel plans right now.

“I think we’ve got Maryland and Orlando coming up and then several home games, and hopefully Paul’s on his feet sooner rather than later,” O’Brien said.

Friends say it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what makes Paul so special.

Being remarkably loyal is without a doubt at the top of the list.

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