7-year-old defying the odds on college football team

Photo of 7-year-old on Franklin College's football team. (WISH photo)

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – A Trafalgar boy battling disability with a smile on his face has earned himself a spot on the Franklin College football team – and a place in the hearts of his teammates.

Jeremiah McAdams, 7, approaches his honorary co-captain duties with the same determination that fuels his fight against spina bifida, a birth defect with no known cure.

“He’s stronger than I am,” said team captain Samm Hayes. “Having him here puts things into perspective for all of us.”

The two met in 2015 and quickly formed a bond, playing video games together, visiting the zoo and supporting each other through challenges on the field and in the hospital.

“Seeing the pain he goes through [inspires] me to fight like he fights,” Hayes explained. “It also made me realize football is just a game.”

McAdams, however, takes the game seriously, assigning his teammates grueling workouts, attending every game and pushing them to never accept failure.

His newfound passion and athletic family have helped distract him from numerous infections, surgeries and other medical procedures, his mother Hannah McAdams said.

She was 20 weeks pregnant with him when she learned his spine hadn’t properly closed in utero. Doctors diagnosed him with spina bifida and warned her he would never walk.

Despite being unable to feel his toes or bend his ankles, McAdams has no trouble maneuvering his way up and down the football field with the help of crutches.

“As you can see, it doesn’t stop him from walking,” his mother laughed, watching him zoom from one end of the field to the other. “He’s always been a fighter.”

The fearless fighter and football fan has also proven to be a loyal friend, texting Hayes every game day and (almost) exclusively sporting his number 63 jersey. A message from the captain on the back reads: “Thanks for being my best friend.”

“I picked number one Trace [Rook’s jersey] once,” McAdams quipped.

He and Hayes joked around on the sidelines with the comfortable ease of lifelong friends and were both surprised when they realized they had only known each other for two years.

“We’ll stay friends after I graduate next year,” Hayes said. “We’ll always be friends.”

He urged fellow college athletes to also “find a friend like Jeremiah” who could help them view their daily challenges with a fresh perspective.

“Somebody who has it maybe a little bit worse than you do and can keep a positive mindset,” Hayes explained, calling his co-captain a source of endless inspiration.

McAdams beamed when he heard the praise and decided to go easy on the team’s workout for the day.

“Only 99 push-ups!” he announced.