POSTED: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - 8:17am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:25pm
Loss of legs can't keep young athlete off the field...
At Willoughby South High School home games in northeast Ohio, 5th grader Erik Knotts gets to stand this close to the action. Erik is a water boy, welcomed as part of the team.
"We've kind of embraced him as our own", said Willoughby football coach Kevin Mateosky. "We can just look back and say we've done something special for someone in his situation, but he's done he also done something special for us as well."
Because while Erik walks among giants on the sidelines, he does it on two prosthetic limbs.
"I think Erik inspires everyone", said Erik's mother Kris Knotts. "But he inspires me because he has that gift of determination."
It was that determination that helped save his life. "When Erik was 18 months old, he got very, very sick, very, very quickly with a bacterial infection called meningococcemia", said Erik's Mom.
The infection spread to his bloodstream. To save his life, doctors had to amputate both of Erik's legs. "To realize you have to sign a paper that says, they're going to take your kids legs, it was bad", said Erik's father Brian Knotts. "But the end result was good."
Not just good, better than anyone could have imagined. Today, Erik is like any other 10-year-old. He pursues his love of sports, playing soccer and baseball. But it's his talent in another sport that sets him apart. Erik is a standout at sled hockey, a modified version of hockey for athletes with physical disabilities.
Erik proudly shows off some of this trophies. "And this one I got in a shooting contest for the most accurate", Erik said.
His ultimate dream is to play sled hockey in the Paralympic Games. But he reserves Friday nights for the football team he loves. And don't anything past him.
"As determined as he is, I wouldn't be surprised if he was in uniform on the sidelines someday", said Erik's father.