Central Illinois Sports Report with Elise Menaker: Braden "Wheels" Nuttall

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Most athletes just want a chance a chance to show their skills.  A chance to prove their coaches wrong.  A chance to prove themselves right.  But all this young football player wants is a chance to play.

His name is Braden Nuttall.  His friends also call him: Wheels.

“For a kid in a walker he can go really, really fast,” said Kaedyn Sloat, friend and teammate of Braden's.

Braden's one of the running backs for the Clinton Maroons in the Junior Football League, and at the beginning of each quarter, the fourth grader got the ball and ran five yards.  He was a stand out on the football field, not because of his disability.

“If not for that, his attitude and everything, he'd be one of the starters,” explained defensive coach Rob Shannon.

But Braden will never be a starter, not this season.  Born premature at 10 1/2, 3 pounds and 15 ounces, he's been a fighter his entire life.

“We had an idea that something could have been wrong,” said Braden's mom Michelle Walsh.

At 15 months doctors found out what was wrong.

“I have a thing called cerebral palsy and my legs are a little bit different than other peoples,” Braden said.

On a daily basis the 9 year old wears orthotics and uses a four-wheel walker to get around.  He's learned to walk about forty steps on his own.

“The reason I kind of have to have my disability is because it makes me the person I am,” he said.

“He's not mean to anybody, like he'll help out people,” is how Jace Tanley describes his friend and teammate.  “He would try things, he would try them and never give up.”

And football is no exception.

“I wanted to be a part of the team and I wanted to play football,” Braden said.

“Absolutely not.  I said, 'no way,'” Walsh said with a laugh.  “We debated and debated for days because I am a little bit overprotective.”

Mom eventually gave in.

“He's a tough guy,” she explained.  “He said, 'who cares if I fall down.  I'll get back up.''

“I learned from the mistakes and everything I've made in my life and I just said, 'I think I'm ready,'' Braden explained.

“To be honest with you, I wasn't sure in the very beginning what position or what role he would play for us,” coach said.  “After getting to know him a little bit and seeing him work just as hard as the other players, it didn't take long figure out that hey, he's just as much a part of this team like everyone else.”

That's why the head coach wanted to get him in the game and designed a play just for Braden.  The opposing team is always aware of what's going on.

“I'm pretty sure they're thinking how in the world does he do that?” Sloat said.

His team blocks, “I'm not nervous,” Braden said of playing.  “I'm just ready and I think I'm going to do fine.”

Both teams show support.

“Half the time whenever we win our games it's only because we have Braden,” Sloat said.


The maroons finished the season two and six, and while Braden's all about winning, he has other, bigger goals.

“To walk independently and be in the NFL,” he said with a smile.

Because there's just no stopping these wheels. 

Braden's favorite team is the green bay packers.  He's been to Lambeau Field and just maybe he'll play there one day.

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