HIRAM – Eddie Warren was born on Aug. 10, 1991 with two deformed legs. Just over a year later, he had a double amputation.

By the time he was in the sixth grade, he had undergone two more surgeries on his legs, each one involving bone reconstruction.

On Sunday, Eddie Warren will graduate from Sacopee Valley High as one of the school’s most respected students, a three-sport athlete who played football, basketball and baseball with two prosthetic legs.

“Eddie has been a very positive force at Sacopee Valley High School ever since he came here,” said Carl Landry, the Hawks’ head football coach and a guidance counselor. “Eddie never asked for any special treatment. He just wanted to be a member of the team. But not only was he a member of the team, he was a leader, an integral leader.

“It was hard for kids to quit on stuff after they looked at Eddie Warren.”

Warren arrived at Sacopee Valley before his junior year, transferring from Portland High. Even though he wears prosthetic legs — his left leg ends above the ankle, his right leg about 6 inches below his knee — he has never thought he was handicapped.

“I always wanted to play sports,” he said. “As a little kid, that’s all I ever wanted to do and I was not going to let a disability stop me. I don’t see myself as different from anyone else.”

A LEADER, NO MATTER THE TEAM

He has done his best to lead an ordinary life under extraordinary conditions. His mother, Wanda, told him he could do anything he wanted. “That was a good thing sometimes; sometimes it wasn’t,” she said. “I tried to treat him like anyone else. He played everything. The only thing I ever told him about sports is if he started something, he was going to finish it.

“It’s been incredible to watch him, no matter what he was doing. He always tried to rise above the challenge and perform at the same level, and sometimes at a higher level, as others.”

He was a kicker, punter and defensive end in football, a basketball shooting guard and a baseball first baseman/pitcher. His coaches and teammates talk about his perseverance and inspiration.

“He was definitely our biggest leader,” said freshman Adam Routes, who met Warren this year during football tryouts. “He had the biggest heart of anyone. He was constantly out there, working on what he needed to improve. He was an inspiration.”

Dan Lyman, the assistant baseball coach who persuaded Warren to play his senior season, said, “He’s definitely influenced my take on everything, and life in general.”

‘COACH … I LOST MY LEG’

It wasn’t always easy. The first time Warren tried to play football for the Hawks, he was told by game officials that he couldn’t. His legs, they said, weren’t properly padded and were a safety issue. To this day, that still stings.

Tim Vacchiano, the Sacopee principal, called the Maine Principals’ Association the following Monday to find out what was needed to make Warren eligible. He hasn’t been denied since.

Warren’s prosthetics are flesh-toned so for the most part, opponents and officials don’t know he has artificial legs — until something happens.

In baseball, while pitching, Warren took a line drive off a leg. It made a loud clang. The umpire walked out to ask him if he was OK and Warren responded, “Sure, it’s probably just a new dent.”

Twice, in football games, he has had a leg knocked off, once after he kicked off against Lake Region and was blocked, the other while playing defensive end against Old Orchard Beach. “I was at the OOB game with my son,” said Vacchiano. “He said, ‘Dad, look, Eddie lost his leg.’ Eddie literally was crawling toward the sideline.”

Warren doesn’t use clips or buckles to keep his prosthetics in place, simply his own weight. He slides the prosthetics onto his legs. Warren said someone stepped on his foot and the leg came off.

“Eddie yelled, ‘Coach, you need to put someone in. I lost my leg,’ ” said Landry. “That’s not normal football talk. Eddie came off and put the leg back on, then we all kind of laughed.”

At basketball practice, said Coach Brian Hink, “We were running a drill and Eddie’s leg came off. One of his teammates picked it up, handed it to him and we went on, like it was normal.”

Hink, also the soccer coach, said, “I would have taken Eddie on that team, too. He’s just an inspirational kid. He was one of our top scorers, our second-leading rebounder. And what a leader. He could really lead the kids.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustments Warren had to make came in baseball. He hadn’t played the sport since Little League, and had to relearn his swing and how to pitch. Playing first was another story. He couldn’t feel the bag when he put his foot on it.

“So I had to figure out how many steps there were to the bag from where I was playing,” said Warren. “And I memorized how to get there.”

THINKING ABOUT TEACHING

Wanda Warren said her son always loved football most. His kicking ability has always been impressive and in fact, he once dreamed of kicking in the NFL. Last summer, NFL legend Morten Andersen, visiting relatives in Brunswick, heard about Warren and contacted him. The two spent an afternoon at Sacopee Valley, kicking field goals.

“He taught me a technique to help me kick further and more accurately,” said Warren.

Warren, 18, will attend the University of Southern Maine next fall. He might try out for basketball or baseball. He hopes to come back to Sacopee Valley — a school his mother believes helped turn his life around — as a physical education teacher someday.

That’s a career choice that, said Sacopee Valley teacher and track coach Nate Carpenter, fits Warren well. “His talent is working with kids,” said Carpenter. “I hope he looks long and hard at doing that as he enters the rest of his life.”

He has much to teach, especially about overcoming perceived handicaps.

“I don’t see myself as different from anyone else,” he said. “I’m not the fastest kid on the team, and I don’t jump the highest. But I’m pretty sure I can compete just as well as anyone else.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]