In 1931, I was born crippled. I couldn’t straighten my legs. Dad would carry me when we went into town. Once when he was holding me, I told him I wanted to be a football player. He said, “I don’t think you are going to be much of an athlete.” This was my motivation for years to come. I outgrew my disability by the time I was nine, but I weighed only 40 pounds and needed to build muscle and stamina.
I knew that a bicycle would help strengthen my legs. I bought one at the local shop and started riding it to school. By the time I was 13, I was the fastest runner in grade school, and at 15, I was the fastest runner in high school.
I made farmwork a part of my rehabilitation. I would finish in the fields at 7:30 p.m. and then run two miles. I hauled rocks up to 450 pounds. Scooping wheat was a big thing. Dad offered to buy a powered grain loader, but I told him to give me the money for school, and I would scoop it all by hand. Some days, I had 1,000 bushels to scoop.
[pullquote] By the time I was 13, I was the fastest runner in grade school, and at 15, I was the fastest runner in high school. [/pullquote]
All the training paid off.
I was a football starter three years in high school and two years in junior college. When I became a college senior, I found out that football practice was at the same time as my engineering laboratory.
At that time, engineers made more money than professional football players, so I chose engineering, and it has paid off ever since.