Last week we brought you the inspiring story of Zach Lederer, who is fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing high school football at Centennial (Md.) High School, playing with a shunt in his head and a tumor in his brain. While Lederer has been suiting up in the mid-Atlantic, a player four states away has been overcoming severe brain issues to play his senior season, too, inspiring his teammates just as Lederer has.
According to the Mobile Press-Register, UMS-Wright (Ala.) Prep High School senior Chandler Roberds has worked his way on to the field for his senior season after being limited to a role a a holder for the team's kickers in the past. And Roberds' limited role in the past has nothing to do with talent; he was forced to avoid contact because of a history of epileptic seizures dating back to his time in middle school.
In an effort to free Roberds from the seizures keeping him from everything from football to driving a car, Dr. Robert Knowlton of the UAB Epilepsy Center in Birmingham helped set the stage for a surgery in which the part of Roberds' brain thought to be causing his seizures was completely removed. Eighteen months after the procedure, Roberds has remained seizure free and without any complications, clearing the path for him to return to the sport he's always loved. And getting in action on the field has served as a significant release for a 17-year-old so dedicated to football that he ran routes with his team's receiving corps while sidelined, even though he knew that he'd never see action.
"I'm not on the sidelines anymore like I used to be," Roberds told the Press-Register. "I'm actually in the action now."
His coach couldn't be happier to see one of his players finally get on the field, and not just for motivational reasons. Roberds has lined up as a wide receiver for UMS-Wright this season and already has one big reception for 47 yards. He's also recorded a tackle on defense, all the while asserting that he's willing to take hits and give them to help the team, past seizures or not.
"It shows a lot of heart and shows how much he loves the game," UMS-Wright coach Terry Curtis told the Press-Register.
The best part for Roberds is the prognosis for his future. Doctors remain bullish that his seizures are firmly in the past, emphasizing that he runs a higher risk of car crash head trauma re-sparking his epilepsy than a football collision.
Even if that wasn't the case, Roberds' doctor and his mother, Terry, said that he has already achieved more than they'd imagined simply by returning to the field.
Knowlton later added: "Whether it's right or wrong, we decided to go ahead and let him play. The big picture is that it's his quality of life. He understands the risks. His mom understands the risks." ...
"In life, he'll never need to question anything," said his mother, Terry Roberds. "If he wants to climb a mountain, he can say, 'You know, I played football. I can do this.' I never wanted him to face life with any reservations."