A muddy field of dreams
Congenital amputee beats the odds
From Correspondent Brian Cabell
In an era in which whining has become an art form and victimhood has become a science, 11-year-old Kyle Maynard stands apart from the crowd.
He's a football player with a small difference; he was born with arms that end above the elbows and legs that end above the knee, a congenital amputee.
Having conquered school -- this straight-A student writes, pencil pinned between his arms, with better penmanship than most adults -- decided to take on athletics. Against all odds and amid skepticism, he willed himself into a football player.
"Yeah, there were a couple of doubts that I couldn't," Kyle says. "But I don't really look at those. I just look at what I can do and what I will do."
What he can do and does is play nose tackle for the Collins Hill National Eagles, a youth league football team in Gwinnett County, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. He loved watching football and when he saw a flyer for football tryouts, he begged his parents to sign him up.
"When he said he wanted to go, we put that in motion," his father Scott says. "Let's go see what we can do."
"I just wanted him to be part of the team and make some friends, so I guess I wasn't expecting him on the front line," Kyle's mother Anita adds.
But the front line is exactly where Kyle ended up, plugging holes in the defensive line. In one game this year, Kyle had four tackles and recovered a fumble.
Tom Schie, Kyle's coach, praises a player who will never throw, catch or run the ball like his young teammates.
"I wish the rest of my 27 (players) had the determination and the heart Kyle does," Schie says.
Kyle spent much of his season-ending game, like most of his games, on the sidelines. In the mud, he waited for the call to go in.
The call came. For a dozen plays, Kyle was in the thick of the action, knocked around and muddied, always jostling for the ball carrier. In one play, he moved at the snap, stretched to his full height, and tripped the ball carrier, bringing him down.
The Eagles went on to win the game.
"They came in here with only one loss and we stuck it to 'em this game," Kyle says. "That feels really good."
Let others talk about Kyle as a hero, an example or a groundbreaker. As far as he's concerned, he's just a ballplayer, a kid with three rambunctious sisters, a fondness for video games and a dream of making the pros -- a dream he knows isn't realistic.
But opponent Quentin Holmes came away from the closing game with a lesson.
"It doesn't matter how big you are," he says. "What counts is the size of your heart."