Boy, 11, takes amputation in stride
Eleven-year-old Jeremy Klingbeil rushes toward an opposing basketball player and tries to swipe the ball from him.
“Take it away from him, Jeremy!” shouts his dad, Rick Klingbeil, who is sitting in the bleachers at Spotsylvania County’s Marshall Center. “Get it, get it!”
It’s a typical scene at a parks and recreation game but one that Jeremy and his father probably had a hard time envisioning not too long ago. A year and half earlier, Jeremy had his right leg amputated below the knee after a lawn-mowing accident.
But Jeremy, wearing his Nike LeBron 7 basketball shoes, hustled up and down the court with other energetic 11-year-olds at a game last Saturday. Nobody seemed to notice his prosthetic.
As his coach, Mike Kozloff, put it, “He’s just one of the Colonials.”
Jeremy, a sixth-grader at Spotsylvania’s Freedom Middle School, says he’s always aware of his prosthetic, “but I can walk normal.” “It’s like I don’t have it, but I know that I do,” explains Jeremy, who has two older brothers.
He has received two prosthetics from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia, which covers expenses that insurance doesn’t.Rick Klingbeil marvels at his son’s progress.
The father’s Facebook page includes a video of Jeremy scaling a rock-climbing wall and a report on his first flag football game last year. “Jeremy scored the first touchdown of the season for his flag football,” Rick Klingbeil wrote in March 2013. “Nothing but smiles.”
Jeremy went on to play tackle football. After the first game, which was played in the pouring rain, he says he proclaimed, “That was awesome!”
He also attended a one-day football camp where “they were having me do everything,” Jeremy recalls. Rick Klingbeil says total strangers approached him to say how much they were impressed by his son’s effort.
Jeremy had actually signed up for his first football season in 2012, shortly before a lawn mower mangled his foot.
Though he couldn’t play that year, he remained part of the Redskins team—attending games and practices unless he had doctor appointments.
The team went undefeated.
Despite all that his son has accomplished, Rick Klingbeil said he was apprehensive about signing Jeremy up for basketball.
“As a dad I was afraid that, jeez, maybe he will get out there and won’t be able to do everything he wants himself to do and frustrate himself,” he said. “Again, he proved me wrong.”
“Is that why you took so long to sign me up?” Jeremy chimed in.
Jeremy says he hasn’t made any baskets, but he has stolen the ball several times from opposing players.
“I only tried to shoot twice [this season], and I missed them both,” Jeremy said last week.
“That’s ’cause you’re new at it,” his dad replied.
With his mom and dad in the stands at last Saturday’s basketball game, Jeremy seemed most comfortable trying to take the ball from the other team.
He fell down once, as did other players. And just like those other players, he got right back up.
His team, the Colonials, lost 23–19 in a nail-biter but won their next game on Thursday 28–8.
Jeremy took five shots during his last outing, and all of them came close, his dad said.
Expect him to try again during a game today.
“It’s about the heart that he puts into it, and that’s basically what it boils down to,” Rick Klingbeil says.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402