Football is a rite of passage in Youngstown, Ohio, but Damon Hodges wasn’t even sure they’d let him play.
The Liberty High junior defensive end’s legs were amputated below the knee when he was just 2 years old, the result of complications at birth, according to a must-read feature on Hodges in Youngstown’s The Vindicator.
Like most kids in Youngstown, Hodges wanted to play football, but his playing career lay in the hands of medical professionals and the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Doctors and trainers solved the first part this summer, designing custom prosthetic legs made of carbon graphite and outfitting them with foam for Hodges.
Then, last week, the OHSAA approved Hodges to fully participate this fall, and his path to football was cleared.
“Many told me that I would never walk or have a normal life,” Hodges, who lost his father at age 12, told the local newspaper, “but things have really worked out for me.”
Liberty is scheduled to open its season at home against Cortland (Ohio) Lakeview on Friday night, and Hodges will be in uniform. Leopards coach Chet Allen expects him to enter a game this year sooner rather than later.
And when he does, Hodges has big plans for his career.
“Not because he’s my son, but he works so hard and is respectful and I have yet to meet anyone like him with a desire to succeed,” his mother, Shelika Wilder, told The Vindicator. “He always tells me that he will be the first player with prosthetic legs to play in the NFL.”
Given the obstacles Hodges has already overcome, anything is possible.