Prosthetic leg not stopping athlete from playing semi-pro footba - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Prosthetic leg not stopping athlete from playing semi-pro football

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On an afternoon in mid-March you would not expect to watch a football practice. Much less, a semi-professional football team practice.

But in Mount Hope, you get just that. Men ages 18 to 45 all gather to continue to play the game they love, for the West Virginia Storm.

"Guys that haven't played football in 10 to15 years, and then we have guys that just graduated that come out," said Gary Hinte, one of the Storms' players.

From federal officers to high school principals, former college athletes to recent high school graduates, the team is full of diversity. Donald Mays, a player with cerebral palsy, is one of the athletes that makes the team so unique.

"He came and asked me, coach, can I play? I'm no person to deny him, I'm going to put him out there. If he thinks he's safe, he's going to be out there also," said general manager Jason Williams on letting Mays play.

Despite limited use of his right arm, Mays plays a threat on the field. In one of the pre-season scrimmages he showed defensive toughness when he sacked the opposing quarterback.

Another amazing player who has overcome hurdles to participate is James Swafford, who plays with a prosthetic leg.

Defensive Coordinator Daniel Ball expressed his feelings about Mays and Swafford. "I think God put that on their shoulders for a reason, so that kids maybe going through something can watch these guys come out and do something they love and won't give up. Maybe they will come out and do something they love and that's what makes it special to me."

Swafford lost his leg while working in the coal mines, and even after the incident, he went back to work in the mines.

Since then he's found a bigger calling. He is now employed by Beckley Orthotics and Prosthetics. He tests prosthetic legs so others can overcome hardships and not give up what they love.

"Hopefully if they see me you know, that's what I want, I want people to see me do it, and give them the drive and determination to do it," said Swafford.

While this team is inspiring, they're also intimidating. The goal is winning and this Storm is brewing. Their first game is April 5th at 7:30 in Mount Hope.

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