Football-playing amputee inspires students at Hubbard High

By Samantha Phillips

sphillips@vindy.com

HUBBARD

Brad Hurtig was a linebacker for Fairview High School and was known for his athleticism, but an accident in the summer of his sophomore year caused his hands to be amputated.

He trained hard after he recovered from four surgeries, and during his senior year at the school in Sherwood, Ohio, he had 111 recorded tackles and received state honors.

Hurtig urged Hubbard High School students Thursday morning to find a way to achieve goals and overcome adversity.

“If you want something bad enough, you’ll fight for it. You’ll quit making excuses and make the needed sacrifices,” he said.

Hurtig started the speech with a quick challenge. Six volunteers had to pick up a water bottle and drink using their elbows, knees or pick it up with their mouth – they couldn’t touch it with their hands.

The idea stemmed from an encounter with his football coach after his accident. A water bottle was on the ground, and he asked his coach to give him a drink. His coach’s response changed Hurtig’s life.

“My coach said, ‘If you are thirsty enough, you’ll find a way.’ I thought, was he being a jerk? But he realized something I hadn’t. Using my hands wasn’t my problem – my perception was my problem,” he said. He picked it up with his elbows and squirted the water in his mouth. From that point on, he did things on his own as much as possible.

Hurtig said the accident happened when he was 17. About 10 years ago, Hurtig and his brother were helping his friend’s dad overnight at a plant to make extra money. They moved steel sheets into a 500-ton power press that would slam down with so much force you could feel the vibration from the parking lot, to mold it into a car part.

Around 2 a.m., Hurtig noticed the steel he put on the press needed adjusted, so he reached in to move it, but his friend had already pressed the button to start the power press. His left hand and right forearm were crushed, and he was rushed to the hospital.

Hurtig popped off his prosthetics for the students to see how they work, and explained he could make the fingers grip and release by pushing his arm muscles up or down.

Ninth-grader Tori Morgan said she enjoyed the speech.

“It was inspirational to hear how he still lives a normal life after the accident,” she said.

Principal Brandi Yobe said she was proud of her students for being attentive and hoped the speech inspires them.

“I love to see opportunities for our students to grow, and to realize they can be anything they want to be,” she said.

Hurtig is a motivational speaker and tours high schools throughout the country. He also spoke at the Hubbard VFW on West Liberty Street Thursday night, and gave free copies of his book, “Find a Way.” Gasser Chair Co. sponsored the assembly for Hubbard High School.

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