Amy Donaldson: Thanks to the support of teammates, disabilities don't stop Riverton kicker
“I’ve always loved football,” said Cody. “Of course, there have been limitations for me. Sometimes I had to stop what I was doing, look for a different way. Sometimes there was no way to figure it out, so then we just move on.”
The doctors said no contact, so he asked if he could be a kicker for the team.
“It took a lot of begging and pleading,” Cody admits. But after convincing his very protective mom, his very cautious doctor, he simply had to win over Riverton head coach Mike Miller, who’d invited him to be a manager for the team his freshman year.
Miller said he had reservations, but felt coaches and his teammates would make sure football for him would be a non-contact sport. They’ve found a number of ways to put Cody in the game, and so far, his coach’s strategy and his teammates have protected him from harm.
“I also have a hard time believing there would be a football kid in this state that would take a cheap shot at him,” said Miller.
Amy Taylor admits the idea of Cody playing football still “kind of freaks me out. But he’s always loved sports, from the time he was teeny tiny. It’s hard as a parent to watch, besides the other physical limitations, that there are things he couldn’t do.”
Cody played soccer and flag football and he found acceptance and success. So he kept finding ways to play the games he loves. He said his body may have betrayed him in some ways, but he does have fairly strong legs.
“I’ve always had stronger legs,” said Cody. “I’ve always been able to kick a ball pretty decent. For the most part, I’ve been able to do whatever I want to do.”
His attitude might be his most valuable contribution to the Silverwolves football program.
“Originally, I think (the players) thought about (Cody’s disability) a little bit, but now I don’t think they even see it,” Miller said. “I think he just adds an element of fun. The kids love him to death. He works as hard, if not harder, than any of them. If there is something he can’t do, he modifies it.” Miller said he’s “never, ever, ever, ever” heard Cody say he can’t do something.
That’s because Cody doesn’t see life in terms of what he can and can’t do. He sees what he wants to do, and then he goes about trying to find his way of getting it done.
His teammates help him with his helmet, his shoulder pads and anything else he might otherwise struggle with — most of the time without being asked. Senior kicker Brady Slack works with Cody every day at practice, analyzing his technique, offering him advice.
“He’s a great kicker and a great role model,” Cody said of Slack.
The senior said it’s Cody who is the great role model. “It’s been great to work with him,” said Slack, who didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year. “He’s pretty inspiring. I don’t see him as having any physical limitations. ... I don’t think, ‘I can’t do that,’ is in his vocabulary.”
Cody believes football has made him a better person.
“Being involved in football gives me a greater love for school,” he said. “I have friends, relationships that I don’t know if they’d be there if I wasn’t part of the program. I would probably find other things to do outside of school with my family, but it wouldn’t have me as involved as football does. I found a way to adapt and make it work, and it’s just fun. Anyway, it’s not about me. It’s about the team.”
Cody is right. That post-kick celebration was as much about the gifts of a generous team as it was about the accomplishment of one determined player.
“I was pretty nervous, and then we had to call a timeout,” he said. “That actually helped me. I was able to talk to Coach Miller and he told me I could do it. The other players were like, ‘Don’t worry about the other team. We’ve got your back.’ ... The first thing I heard was the whole sideline erupting, and that was pretty awesome.”