Jared Braddock will never take a snap during a football game, but that doesn’t stop number 36 from being fully committed to the Ripley High School Tigers’ football team. On Friday nights in the fall, he suits up and prowls the Tigers’ sidelines in his motorized wheelchair. “I’m there to be kind of a hype man, to try and get everybody focused on what the task is.”
Jared has grown up with the guys from the team, even seeing them through an undefeated season, but not every year has been perfect. More victories would be nice, but losses have their lessons. There’s virtue in the struggle; there’s virtue in refusing to quit – even when the difficulty seems overwhelming.
The lessons many students learned in the arena of athletic competition – perseverance, dedication, and determination – are lessons Jared has been focused on since his birth. He has lived with Muscular Dystrophy all his life. Until he was in second grade, Jared had to be carried or pushed in a wheelchair everywhere he went. Receiving a motorized wheelchair changed all that, and he has been on the move ever since. “After seeing me in the halls at school, people say I’m going to be a good driver,” he explains. The difficulty is that his mother, who is a single parent, is trying to transport him in a 2004 Chrysler minivan that isn’t equipped for his motorized chair. “If I sit around all day and don’t move at all, I’ll probably be pretty tight, but I try to move as much as possible,” says Jared.
Although Jared’s body doesn’t allow him to catch a pass or run for a touchdown, he doesn’t allow it to hinder his academic pursuits. His laser-like focus has allowed him to be a straight-A student at RHS. His English teacher Shanna Vaughn says, “He always does his best. He’s never satisfied with giving anything less.” One of Jared’s cousins, a junior at the Mississippi School of Math and Science, is his role model. Jared explains, “You could say it runs in my blood. He’s a straight-A student. I look up to him.”
Given the struggle, many students with disabilities would be happy to simply finish high school, but Jared’s dreams go beyond the borders of Ripley, MS. He is looking forward to college and aspires to be a music producer or promoter.