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August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Team manager McKay Wood, who's afflicted with cerebral palsy, is a friend and an inspiration to Bountiful athletes.

BOUNTIFUL — If McKay "Mac" Wood had his way, he would be the starting quarterback for the Bountiful Braves' football team.

He would also play on the basketball team and be the perfect complement to Braves big man Ben Aird, setting up from the outside, knocking down what he calls "trey balls."

But Wood isn't physically able to have those opportunities, as he is afflicted with cerebral palsy, a disability that's weakened his limbs and stunted his growth. It also left him nearly blind, as he has to look out of the top corners of his eyes in order to see his desired target.

Cerebral palsy has rocked Wood's physical abilities but hasn't entirely kept him on the sidelines.

During his current sophomore year, Wood has been the team manager for the Braves' football and boys basketball teams. He does his job well, making sure his players have towels, water and encouragement when they need them.

Most importantly, he is a friend and an inspirational figure to the Braves, who are in first place in Region 5, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A and 15-4 overall.

"He's just a great kid, and he's got a great heart," Aird said. "He motivates all of us to do better in everything we do. He's very inspirational."

For Wood, who would do anything to be a varsity sports star, being a team manager is the next best thing.

"I like just being with my buds," Wood said. "I like helping out with the school. I like just being involved."

Problems caused at birth

Wood comes from an athletic family. His sister, Ari, a senior at Bountiful, is a first-team all-state soccer player who signed with Weber State last week. Another sister, Ashley, also starred at Bountiful in soccer and went on to have a stellar career at Weber State. Wood's brother, Jace, was an all-state defensive back on the Braves' football team in 2005.

Wood shares his family's love for sports but didn't have the capacity to thrive in them like his siblings and father. He was born three months prematurely and then had to spend the first three months of his life in the hospital. Wood's mother, Michelle, had her water break when she was just four months pregnant with him. Doctors didn't know why that happened.

Wood has had several surgeries on his legs, and he has two shunts that drain fluid from his head and send it to his heart. He has spent much of his life in the care of doctors. In 2005, he had to spend 242 days of the year in the hospital.

All of the hours Wood has spent in the care of doctors have made him appreciate the times, such as now, when he doesn't have many physical issues to deal with.

"He does not recognize his limitations," Michelle Wood said. "He loves to get out. When he's healthy, he wants to make the most of it."

The 3-point bomber

Wood was confined to a wheelchair the first four years of his life. Once he was able to walk on his own, Wood spent much of his time in one area: the basketball court.

Wood spent countless hours working on his shot, mostly from 3-point range. Sometimes Wood will attempt 3-pointers before Bountiful boys basketball games and wow the crowd with his shooting ability. It is amazing to see how well he shoots, especially when you understand his visual impairment.

"That's his favorite thing to do is shoot the 3," Aird said. "It's incredible. He just has it (the shooting range) embedded in his memory. He's beat me in HORSE before. He's probably beat us all in HORSE before."

One of Wood's most unlikely victims in a shooting game was Bountiful forward Jordan Maxwell, one of 4A's top shooters.

"Kid beat me in PIG once," Jordan Maxwell said. "He comes up to me after the game, 'Man, you just got beat in PIG by a blind boy.' He was going nuts all over the place."

Wood has told Aird that the Braves could have used his 3-point shooting after their losses this season.

"He thinks he's the greatest player ever," said Bountiful coach Mike Maxwell. "He says, 'Coach, when are you going to put me in? I can knock down the 3."'

One of the guys

Wood's confidence — as well as his charm and wit — helped him to quickly fit in with Bountiful's athletes this year. Wood shares many things in common with them, such as enjoying sports and chasing girls.

A few of the Braves included Wood with them in their homecoming plans. Wood took his date to dinner with a group that included Aird and his date.

Aird and Wood have had a close relationship since the start of the school year. Aird picks Wood up for school, and the two do things away from school and basketball such as getting soft drinks together and playing video games. Wood is able to play video games by sitting just centimeters away from the TV screen, looking at it out of the corners of his eyes.

"He even tears me up in that sometimes," Aird said.

Wood's efforts as a team manager during the football season earned him his prized possession: a pair of red coaching cleats given to him by assistant football coach Clark "Boog" Stringfellow. Wood did not miss a practice all football season.

Wood's biggest contribution in basketball is his pregame speeches. When the Braves play at home, he reminds the players that they "don't lose in our house."

"You get chills," Aird said of Wood's fiery pre-game talks. "It's like a movie, almost. He pushes me to my limits. I know I'm doing the best I can to make my senior year the best it can be."

Wood gets just as much out of his relationship with Bountiful's athletes as they do. The players and coaches have taken him under their wing and treated him like one of the guys.

"They have been so good to him," Michelle Wood said. "They have made a huge, huge difference in his high school experience."

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