How Player in Wheelchair Became Vital Part of High School Football Team

October 03, 2018 - 5:25 pm
Categories: 

KIRKWOOD, Mo (KMOX) - Head coach Matt Krapfl says a typical junior varsity football team won't even attempt an extra point, they just go for two after every touchdown. Not to run up the score, but because they usually don't have the necessary special teams players able to consistently make field goals. 

But Kirkwood High School has sophomore holder Mack Reed. 

Reed has earned the trust of Krapfl in less than a year since he first approached the Kirkwood coaching staff with the idea of him playing football. The answer a coach would give to most kids, "Sure, show up to summer workouts." But for Reed, the first question was, "well how would that work?"  

Reed was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth. His backbone did not properly develop in the womb, which left him without the use of his legs.

But he's found a way to play a sport he loves. The idea first came from Minnesota-native Danny Lilya, an athlete like Reed who doesn't have use of his legs, but became his high school football team's holder. His story was national news last winter. 

Reed showed that video to his parents and the Kirkwood coaches, who have been behind him 100 percent. 

Related: High School Pitcher Strikes Out Friend, Consoles Him

After a touchdown is scored, one of Reed's teammates will push him out to the 10-yard line. He slides out of his chair and positions himself about seven yards behind the long snapper. Reed checks on his kicker looks back at the snap, then pumps his hand to signal the snap. 

More times than not, Reed catches it and places it. Then the kick is up and good. 

"Coach always reminded me I had to earn my spot," Reed says. "I respected that."

Throughout the summer, Reed, his kicker, and snapper would head to an open football field to take extra practice on the weekends. That's on top of his twice-a-week wheelchair basketball practice with the Saint Louis Rolling Rams and para powerlifting sessions every Sunday. 

Mack’s dream to play football came recently, but he’s always been a fan of the sport. And he’s followed the career of one player in particular: Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin. The 2018 NFL Draft pick was born with amniotic band syndrome, causing the fingers on his left hand to not fully develop. His hand was amputated when he was 4-years-old. 

Mack draws a strong similarity to his story. 

"We kinda have that connection, it’s really fun to see him get to that highest level after what he had to go through," Mack says. "All he is is an athlete … People shouldn’t see him as a disabled athlete, he’s an athlete with a disability."

"It’s something that most people think he couldn’t do," says Tom Reed, Mack's father. "So he likes to prove them wrong."

It’s the dedication and determination of athletes like Griffin and Mack that are truly an inspiration to everyone around them.

"Personally, he’s a constant reminder of if he can come out here and give his best then there’s no reason I can’t be doing better," Krapfl says.

Reed's goal is to become the holder at the varsity level.