Throughout the school year, we'll celebrate inspirational athletes who let nothing get in the way of their dreams.
Some of his friends call Sam Monarch “butterfly,” but on the football field, the nose tackle stings like a bee for the freshman team at Timber Creek (Orlando).
“He’s very powerful for his size (5-foot-9, 168 pounds),” said coach Mike Weems. “Sam gets double-teamed about 50 to 60 percent of the time.”
Monarch, 15, earned a starting spot despite missing the lower half of one arm. He was born with amniotic band syndrome, which prevented full development of his right arm.
“When I tackle, I hit them as hard as I can,” Monarch said. “I try to hit them before they hit me.”
Weems said it’s hard to explain exactly how Monarch is adapting so well, particularly since he played only one year of Pop Warner football. Timber Creek’s freshmen are 1-0 and played Lake Nona (Orlando) on Thursday.
“His biggest problem is he needs to gain some size, like a lot of our players,” Weems said. “I don’t think his right arm is as much a disability as everybody thinks. He’s lived his whole life with one hand and he’s learned to compensate.
“When he makes a tackle, it doesn’t look that different than a young man would make with two arms. He wraps it up good with his left hand and arm. He finishes tackles with his legs. Instead of dragging them down, he drives through on the tackle.”
Monarch ran track in middle school and played volleyball, but said he enjoys the aggressive nature of football.
“I’ve grown up playing in the backyard and I wanted the experience of playing organized football,” Monarch said. “I’ve been lucky. The other players treat me like anybody else.”
Monarch has stood out in one area, however. He usually leads the team in prayer after practice. Monarch’s parents work for Campus Crusade for Christ International, whose headquarters are in Orlando. Monarch said his faith and football mesh easily.
“It’s very easy to intertwine the two,” he said. “You can go out there and be a great football player, but if you don’t give the glory to God, what good is that?”
His parents, Thomas and Jill Monarch, adopted him from Tula, Russia, when he was just under 2. He has two older sisters and two adopted younger siblings, a sister with Down syndrome and a brother with cystic fibrosis.
“His parents are unbelievable people to be able to adopt Sam and the two younger siblings,” Weems said. “He has a great outlook on life and his parents have had something to do with that. I can’t imagine to have all the adversity they’ve had to overcome to raise Sam and his younger siblings.”
Once football season is over, Weems, who is Timber Creek’s wrestling coach, would love to see what Monarch could do on the mat.
“He has the qualities for wrestling as far as hard work and tenacity that you can’t really teach,” Weems said.