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One-legged kicker an unlikely hero

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WICHITA — Seventeen-year old Johnny Worthington kicked the game-winning field goal last Saturday to lead his Wichita Mudhens to the Division II high school football title game next week.

Artist rendering

This may not sound like much to those beyond the Kansas state line but consider this: Worthington was born blind with cystic fibrosis, had a heart-lung transplant when he was only four, lost both arms in a tractor accident and had his left leg amputated after his dog went rabid and bit him just below the knee on the morning of his 12th birthday.

Of his miraculous ability to persevere, Johnny says the key is not letting his handicap stand in the way of a challenge and always having a sense of humor.

“I’ll probably never have trouble getting a parking spot,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve never thought of my handicap as a reason to get down or depressed. I’ve always felt I was just like all the other kids growing up. I tried to do the same things everyone else was doing, it just took me a little longer to learn how to do them — like riding a bike, playing football, using a skateboard.”

Johnny still rides his skateboard to school everyday and to football practice five days a week. “I wouldn’t miss that for anything. It’s all I think about all day,” he said. “My teammates have been really supportive. I didn’t kick too great at the beginning of the season and I think some of the guys looked at me as a liability, they thought I wasn’t too good,” he said. “But I’m not afraid of hard work. I practiced a lot. I’ve always been a fighter.”


It was that fighting spirit that gave coach Craig Edens the confidence to put Johnny in the game with 14 seconds left, a trip to the state title game on the line and the Mudhens trailing the unbeaten George Washington Carver Falcons, 22-20. “They lined him up and he just went for it. How he put (the ball) through (the uprights), I don’t know,” the coach said. “It was only a 27-yarder so I knew he had a chance but this thing was a beauty. He had enough leg to ride it another 10 yards.”

Overcome with emotion after kicking the winning field goal, Johnny fell to the ground. “I couldn’t help it,” he said. “I only have one leg.”

Since the kick, calls have been flooding the school for interview requests. “JW’s a great kid and he deserves all the good things that have come his way because of that kick,” Coach Edens added.

It will be the first state championship game appearance for the Mudhens. Game time is set for Saturday at 1 pm.

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