Eye-to-Eye with Adversity

It’s an essential truth in life.

Some people let little things get them down and just plain quit.

Others with major adversity in their lives don’t let challenges–physical, circumstantial, professional or personal–get in the way of doing what they love to do.

Some people look adversity in the eye and simply say, “Move aside. There’s no room for victimhood in my life.”

Blue Valley Northwest High School junior Bryce Boyer personifies giving adversity a swift kick in the rear.

Boyer is on the school’s varsity wrestling team, the junior varsity football team, plays the snare drums on the marching band’s drum line and maintains a 4.2 grade point average.

And by the way–Boyer doesn’t have any legs below the knees.

But that physical fact of life for Boyer doesn’t deter the determined teen from doing everything he loves–including sports, music and academics.

The 16-year-old Boyer was born without any bones in his legs halfway down below his shins, but that has not slowed him down one bit. In fact, he’s embraced what would be a deal-breaker for many in his situation and gone for the gusto.

“He is a pleasure to work with,” BV Northwest football assistant coach and psychology teacher Tenny Dewey says. “He is an inspiration to me, as well as his teammates. He fits right in with his peers and is seen as just another Husky football player by his teammates–nothing more, nothing less.”

Boyer started playing football in the eighth grade at Oxford Middle School and continues his career at BV Northwest. He played on the defensive line for the junior varsity team in 2011, wearing foam pads on his artificial legs during games.

Boyer began his wrestling career in the seventh grade with the Blue Valley Wrestling Club. He’s on the varsity team for the 2010-2011 season, wrestling at 135 pounds.

How did Boyer get interested in sports?

“I’ve always liked competition,” Boyer says, matter-of-factly. “I made up games when I was a little kid and I played baseball.”

Husky wrestling coach Tim Serbousek is impressed with Boyer’s tenacity.

“He is a very determined young man,” Serbousek says. “He expects a lot from himself and doesn’t want to let his teammates and coaches down.”

Boyer can’t use his artificial legs in wrestling, which has presented some problems–but true to the student’s nature, it’s a small obstacle to be overcome.

“I am limited to just my upper body,” Boyer says. “There were more disadvantages at the start of the curve, but I am getting better as I figure out moves that work with my weird center of gravity.”

Boyer notes that he is getting better at wrestling in the top position, avoiding takedowns while on his feet.

What will be Boyer’s secret of success for this season?

“Having a few moves that I can do very well,” he notes.

BV Northwest physical education teacher and assistant football and assistant wrestling coach John Reichart says Boyer is one of the most positive kids he’s encountered.

“He attacks everything with the intention of making the best of it. Bryce doesn’t set limits, but goals,” says Reichart. “He does well with his challenges. He says, ‘This is what I can do, not what can’t I do.'”

Why does Bryce want to participate in sports if he’s never had a winning record in wrestling or football? And what inspires him to discover ways to compensate for his physical challenges?

“I do sports because I love them,” Boyer says. “The way my parents raised me was crucial. They’ve always pushed me to do well in grades and everything I do.”

Boyer admits he wasn’t much of a student in elementary school but that parental influence impacted his decision to set goals and reach them.

“In fifth grade, my mom (Gail) said no more baseball unless my grades got better,” he says. “I started pulling all my grades in sixth grade. She drilled into my head not to slack off. I just love to do (classes) as well as I can.”

Boyer notes that his dad, Bob, showed him ways to help with what he wanted to achieve.

“When I started wrestling in seventh grade, my dad showed me a video of a wrestler without elbows and knees,” Boyer says. “The guy lost his first 30 matches, but then he was an NCAA champion.”

Boyer’s success in sports and academics has not gone unnoticed.

“Bryce has been a clear example of dedication and hard work and not allowing anything to get in his way of competing athletically and academically,” says BV Northwest athletic director Steve Harms.

The school’s head football coach Mike Zegunis notes that Boyer’s stick-to-it attitude is a shining example for anyone he encounters. 

“He is an outstanding young man and is very inspirational to the staff and teammates,” says Zegunis. “He never complains and works hard at everything he does. It is amazing to see him do all the things he can do on the football field.”

Playing in the marching band is not an easy task for Boyer.

“Bryce marches on the snare drum line, which means he carries a heavy drum on a harness for long rehearsals, parades and field shows,” BV Northwest Director of Bands John Selzer says. “Bryce is one of our best musicians. Additionally, he is dedicated, hard-working and ultimately dependable.”

Selzer is impressed with what Boyce has accomplished.

“He is a young man with high standards for himself,” he notes. “He has never, since I’ve known him, let his physical challenges keep him from doing anything. When I think about Bryce and his accomplishments, I think of a work in progress.” 

Selzer pauses and comments on what is perhaps Boyer’s most fiercely held attribute.

“His goal has always been to be judged on his merits as a person, not as someone who has prosthetic limbs. I have great respect for that,” says Selzer.

The Huskies junior has not earned his 4.2 grade point average taking easy classes. Boyer is taking three AP (Advanced Placement) classes in U.S. history, chemistry and communication arts and honors classes in Spanish 4 and pre-calculus.

“I have no idea what I want to take in college,” Boyer says. “I am not set on anything.”

But no matter what this remarkable young man decides to pursue in life, you can be assured of one thing. 

He will continue to look adversity in the eye and say, “You’re not beating me in life.”

words: Charles Redfield

photos: Jean Lemunyon