It?s a well-worn sports cliché, that football is a game of inches. But, for one Ellensburg 8th grade football team, this season has been about much more than just inches. What sets the Morgan Middle School Tigers apart are not inches ? but, feet; specifically, the 7?4.6? of wide receiver Brenden Adams.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Brenden is the tallest teenage boy in the world. Playing football has been a lifelong dream, but one very few people thought possible. ?This is the first year my mom?s let me play,? says Brenden. ?She thought I was gonna get hurt or something. It?s my favorite sport and she said this is an opportunity she didn?t want me to miss.?
Brenden couldn?t have been a more average newborn. He weighed seven pounds, three ounces and was a very average 19.25? long. But, by the time he was five months old, doctors knew something wasn?t right. Brenden had all of his teeth by then. In five months, he gained 14 pounds. Doctors knew he was growing fast, but it would be years before they could figure out why.
?It was my 12th chromosome that broke in half and flipped over and reattached,? explains Brenden. No one knows why it happened, but they don?t think it?s ever happened to anyone else in the world. While doctors tried to figure out how to stop it, Brenden kept growing. At two years old, he was three and a half feet tall, about six inches taller than the average kid his age. By five years old, he was four and a half feet tall. By the time he turned 11, Brenden was six feet, eight inches tall. Everywhere he goes, people stare.
?When I go to a big city or something, I?ll always get somebody stopping me and saying ?do you play basketball??? But, despite his love for sports, Brenden is no athlete. He has serious health problems. His body is full of tumors, his joints are enlarged and he has a recently-discovered heart arrhythmia. ?I can?t run anymore,? Brenden explains. ?I can?t be active like I used to.?
His story has attracted national attention. Last year, he was a guest on the Oprah show and she introduced him to NBA star Shaquille O?Neal. They spent the day together and Shaq gave Brenden some hard-to-find size 22 shoes ? and, a lesson about being different. ?He said ?just keep your back straight and have fun,?? Brenden remembers.
Still, Brenden was desperate to play football. He didn?t want to the manager/waterboy like last year. ?This year he asked if he could play for the team,? says Brenden?s coach Kevin Wetzel. ?I said if you can get a doctor?s clearance, we?d be happy to have you.?
But, getting that doctor?s clearance wouldn?t be easy. Brenden?s blood counts were so abnormal, doctors worried a broken bone could cause him to bleed to death. But, a surgery to remove his enlarged spleen last year got his blood counts back to normal. His mom had no choice but to give her blessing. Now, he?s side-by-side with his best friend Ryan Secondi. They?ve been friends since they were babies ? now, they?re teammates. ?It?s great,? Secondi says. ?He?s part of the team. He works just like all the other people.?
The arthritis makes it hard for Brenden to even be on the field. It?s hard for him to catch the ball and when he gets cold, his joints ache even more. ?He can?t run, he can?t really jump,? says Wetzel. ?There?s not a whole lot he can do. If you want to get him some action, you have to be creative.?
And, they have. They designed a play just for Brenden. All he has to do is get out about five yards and the quarterback lofts up the ball. They call it their secret weapon, because no 8th grade defender can jump as high as Brenden can reach.
For Brenden, it?s not about winning. It?s not even about playing time, as Brenden has only been in the game for a couple of plays this season. For Brenden, it?s just about being on the team and on the field. Out there, he?s just another 14-year old kid in a jersey and shoulder pads. He?s taught his teammates and his community there?s more to him than just being the tallest kid in the world. ?Don?t think people are weird just by the way they look,? says Brenden. ?Because I?m a nice person.?
Medically, things are looking up for Brenden. Doctors gave him testosterone shots over the last several years; that process induced puberty so his growth plates would close. He hasn?t grown an inch since February.
For more on Brenden Adams' amazing story check out this video for additional information.
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