September 07, 2018 10:44 PM
(ABC 6 News) – On Friday nights in the fall, the players who score the touchdowns often make the highlight-reel—but in Byron, the main source of inspiration isn’t a star player, instead, its junior linebacker Josh Plank.
“Josh is a pretty unique story for us,” Bears head coach Ben Halder said.
“He’s working his butt off on the field,” Bears senior offensive and defensive lineman Will Holz added. “He just flies to the ball, gets everywhere. He’s the kind of guy where he leads by example and doesn’t say a whole lot, but you don’t need to if you’re leading by example.”
Plank isn’t just a linebacker on defense—he’s also a lineman on offense.
“He can punch as well as anyone else can,” Holz said. “He adds a lot of trust. If someone screws up, he’s always bringing people up.”
“It’s hard (playing offensive line),” Plank said. “Most of the time, I try to play on the right side of the line, so I can block the inside easier. To get to the outside, I just have to move my feet more than anyone else.”
Since 4th grade, Plank has laced up his cleats, put on his shoulder pads, and played football as hard as possible—just like his teammates.
“I thought he was really athletic watching him run around,” Halder said his regarding his first impression of Plank. “I thought ‘there’s a spot on our football team for this kid’.”
Plank doesn’t just get play hard on the field—he also trains hard in the weight room.
“When you ask him to do something, he doesn’t pull himself out,” Halder said. “When we’re in the weight room and we’re doing bench press, he finds a way to do what he can. He never let it limit what he thought he could do, and he is showing what he can do right now.”
What Halder is referring to is Plank’s physical limitation, a stunted growth in his right arm.
“I was born like it. It just didn’t grow,” Plank said. “It’s kind of hard (sometimes), but I can still do the same (things) as everyone else. I don’t really know what it’s like to have another hand, I’m used to it. The challenges, obviously, I have to adapt to things. I can’t bench regularly, working out is probably the biggest challenge. But it’s gotten easier. I’ve gotten better.”
Halder can relate to Plank’s physical limitation—in 2005, Halder lost his left leg following a serious car accident.
“You just find a way,” Halder said. “It becomes normal, it becomes your everyday routine, and I think (Josh) does a fantastic job with that.”
Plank’s teammates and coaches refer to him as a “hard worker,” and someone who makes everyone else around him better—he’s also an inspiration to his entire team.
“He’s our punter too,” Halder said. “He’s found a way to catch a snap, which is really cool to watch and see, and he’s got a great leg too.”
Plank said he looks up to football players like Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin—Griffin’s left hand was amputated as a child because it didn’t develop properly.
Griffin went on to play college football at the University of Central Florida, where he helped the Knights finish with an undefeated record in 2017 while earning 2nd-Team All-America honors. In April, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Griffin in the 5th round of the NFL Draft, and this past preseason, he finished as the team’s leading tackler.
“I try to be a role model,” Plank said. “I’ve watched (Griffin play) since college, he’s really good. He does everything the same thing I do. He plays (the game) Fortnite, I play Fortnite, he’s just like me.”
Plank said if players like Griffin and himself can play football, so can anyone else with a physical limitation.
“(If you want to play football but have doubts) you might as well try it,” Plank said. “If you don’t like it, you can stop, but you might as well try it. I’m sure you’ll like it.”
“We’re all one team,” Holz added. “No one is above anyone else. We’re all here trying to reach one common goal.”
Plank has been playing JV football for the Bears this season. During the spring, he plays baseball for the Bears, playing in the outfield and pitching.
Updated: September 07, 2018 10:44 PM
Created: September 06, 2018 08:37 PM
Copyright 2018 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company