Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kentucky teen with spina bifida plays defense on high school football team


ALEXANDRIA, Ky. -- Ryan Lloyd has become an unlikely inspiration for students at Bishop Brossart High School. He joined the high school's football team this summer, despite his lifelong battle with spina bifida.

But it's not just football that Lloyd tackles. This senior is up for any physical activity.

"Swimming for example. When we go on vacation, I'm the first one to jump in the pool. I'll try anything at least once," Lloyd said.

Lloyd said he was inspired by the Disney movie "Going to the Mat," about a blind student who becomes a wrestler. That began Lloyd's obsession with sports.

"He can't even see," Lloyd said referring to the movie. "If he can do that, I can't use my legs, so I can find a way to make up for that too."

Not long after seeing the movie, Lloyd joined the wrestling team. His first win came in his junior year.

"When I got my first win, I didn't do much, just shook the kid's hand. But I had butterflies all over my stomach after I got my first win."

Lloyd said he had the same feeling the first time he put on his football helmet and pads. When he plays, Lloyd is on the defensive line for short-yardage situations.

Even when he's not playing, his teammates love having him around.

"These guys are my best friends, for the rest of my life," he said.

"They just treat him like one of the guys. And he is one of the guys," said Coach Matt Reinhart. "He appreciates that kind of acceptance, and he has that with the guys."

But acceptance also comes with a little razzing here and there.

"I'll be walking along beside him," Lloyd said referring to one of his teammates. "And he says, 'Come on gimpy. Keep going.' I absolutely love them for saying comments like that, because it keeps pushing me to be who I am."

Lloyd's long-term goal is to inspire other students as a physical education teacher. His short-term goal was to make it through Senior Night with his parents.

"I'm sure that they're proud to be out there. They know their son is doing what he wants to do and no one can stop him," Lloyd said.