MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (Anthony Pearson)
For Anthony Pearson, achieving the impossible has become the norm.
By Matt Shepard
Published: Spring 2000
“Although I was only 12 at the time, my first reaction was ‘You're not going to take my leg.’ After 6 weeks and a confirmed diagnosis, I made the decision to do the surgery. I had turned 12 years old on June 15 and the surgery was on the 31st of July, 1995.”
“Anthony Pearson, a student at Idaho's Homedale High School, has parlayed his attitude, perseverance, and the Bigger Faster Stronger Program to land a starting position on the varsity football team,” stated Rich Hoyt, in a letter he sent me at the end of their football season this year. When I talked to Rich about this young athlete he couldn't say enough about him. Last year Rich retired as head coach and handed over the reigns to Coach Greg Asbury who also shares the same excitement about Anthony, “Whenever anyone would start to feel sorry for themselves, they would just need to look at Anthony working and they would pick up their pace.” What is it about Anthony that commands such praise?
Well, Anthony won the starting quick tackle position this year as only a sophomore; but this accomplishment isn't what earned him this incredible admiration. What did, was his unparalleled heart and determination. You see, Anthony had more than just a younger age to overcome in the pursuit of this position; he had to overcome the immense handicap of having only one leg. Coach Hoyt informed, “Anthony had his left leg amputated below the knee four years ago due to a cancerous tumor. Although in remission, Anthony's condition remains serious enough to be reevaluated every two months. A benign cyst was removed from the same leg during the first month of this season and Anthony was forced to sit out all the pre-season and the first regular season game—after spending the entire summer getting ready for football in the weight room.” Anthony is definitely an inspiration to us all!
“Anthony manages to participate in football and wrestling with the aid of a metal prosthesis,” Rich continues. “He has adapted so well, many of his competitors are unaware of the situation.” This adaptation led him to an undefeated season as an 8th grader and an 11-6 record at the J.V. level in wrestling. Anthony even won a match at the state varsity tournament his freshman year. About athletics, Anthony stated, “Participating in sports again really helped me.”
The adjustment to his prosthesis, however, didn't start out easy. Anthony explains, “It took about 3 months. I had been off my leg for a year and putting weight back on it took quite an adjustment. It felt so different . . . I was afraid of falling.” It was quite a challenge for him, but Anthony was up to it. He worked extremely hard on getting his balance and strength up and within a mere three months he was ready to go. Anthony recalled, “I got my prosthesis in May and was able to play jr. high football by August. I was a 7th grader and made the 8th grade team.”
In his fight to overcome the mental anguish associated with such a loss, Anthony credits many people as major contributors, “My parents (Delora and Gerald Pearson) and grandparents (Harriet P. and Sheridan Ezola, and Carl and Laura Post) were there for me all the time. When I was in the hospital, children with similar handicaps were brought in to talk with me and encourage me. Homedale had a benefit auction and The Make A Wish Foundation supplied me with a computer to help with schoolwork. My fifth grade class made me a blanket, one of my elementary teachers visited me at home to help me with my school work (I was out of school for a year). Steve Larzelier, one of my best friends, called, visited and sent me cards as often as he could.” Anthony still feels a great deal of gratitude for all of those who went the extra mile to help him through this tough time.
In reflection of the amputation, Anthony remembered, “For a while, I wanted to play college and pro football. After I lost my leg, it was hard realizing I probably couldn't ever do those things. However, it doesn't really bother me now—I don't often think about it.” When I asked Anthony how he was able to overcome these physical and mental obstacles so quickly he replied, "I always maintain a positive attitude and will go the extra mile to accomplish what others may view as routine. I always try to set goals for myself and work hard to obtaining them. My mom always tells me there is nothing I can't do.”
When asked if it hurt to lift weights or play sports, Anthony responded, “Sometimes. It especially hurts in football at the end of practice or games because the stump shrinks making the prostheses rub me raw and it hits the pressure points making me real sore. I don't think it bothers me that much in the weight room, but I have worn out several prostheses because of my work ethic.” Vouching for his incredible work ethic, Anthony's head football coach, Greg Asbury, stated, “Anthony is an inspiration to everyone in our program. He works hard in the weight room and never allows his handicap to deter him. I was impressed with his work ethic on the field as well. He plays hard every down and was one of the most physical kids on our team.”
“Anthony has been faithful to the BFS system and is currently bench pressing 300-pounds. His other core lifts include a 410-pound parallel squat and a 240-pound power clean,” Informed Rich. “Anthony has brought his 40-yard dash time down to 5.2 seconds and hopes to get his time down in the 4's before graduation. He is currently a 16-year old in the first semester of his sophomore year.”
Homedale started using the BFS System four years ago and the team has now been in the state finals three years running (winning the title in '97). Coach Hoyt attributes the BFS System to the great success of their team. He states, “Coach Asbury's decision to maintain the BFS System with the help of assistant David Carson was the key to the success of Anthony Pearson and the rest of the Trojans. All our athletes and coaches are sold on this system because we see the results and we can make BFS fit our time constraints. Several high schools in our area have had outstanding results using the same system, so BFS will remain our #1 vehicle to success in the future.”
About this year's season Coach Hoyt continues, “This year the Trojans were supposed to be in a major rebuilding situation with the loss of fifteen seniors, five all-staters, and the player of the year in '97 and '98. After a sensational off-season in the weight room using the BFS core lifts, plyometrics, running, the dot drill and summer passing league, the Trojans managed to finish first in their conference and play in the state title game despite having a new system, and an abnormal amount of team youth (Homedale started two freshmen, two sophomores, and only four seniors on the varsity football team).” I guess, with this many athletes returning next year, as well as the return of Anthony, the Trojans are sure to be a dominating force next year as well.