ContributorsPublishersAdvertisers

No arms, no legs, no excuses: Wickenburg (Arizona) football coach Carter Crosland sees no obstacles

USA TODAY
USA TODAY
 2022-08-03

WICKENBURG, Ariz. — On most days, usually a little after 3, the man in the wide-brim straw hat, with no arms and legs, can be seen around town driving his wheelchair to get to Wickenburg High School's football practice.

Living on the other end of town, it takes 37-year-old Carter Crosland 30 to 45 minutes to get there to assist head coach Ishmael MacNeil's team as a defensive assistant. Earlier in the summer, he would catch a ride from his cousin, Carson Hone, a defensive lineman on the team, who would put Crosland's chair on the back of his truck.

But now that school is in session, Hone can't pick him up, so Crosland is on his own getting to the school for practices.

He never misses.

On this day, it's 103 degrees and feels hotter with the sun bearing down with the higher-than-usual humidity, but Crosland didn't complain about the cross-town trek.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2WTfh3_0h3JdnQh00
Wickenburg High School junior Clayton Smid (left) hands off the ball to senior Luke Drescher (right) as assistant football coach Carter Crosland observes during practice at the school's football field. Samantha Chow/The Republic

SPORTS NEWSLETTER: Sign up now to get sports headlines delivered daily

"I'll cruise home when practice is over probably," Crosland said. "It takes another half hour to get there. But that's all right. It's nice when it starts cooling down.

"I try not to make excuses. If I can get here by myself, then they can get here."

Crosland was born in Utah without arms and legs, so this is "normal" to him, getting around on a motorized chair. His iPhone sits on his left shoulder and a touchpad is near his other right shoulder that directs his wheelchair.

"I think I would rather have it this way," Crosland said. "I don't know any different, so I don't know what it's like to have arms and legs. This is normal to me. I have a cousin who lost both of his legs, one below the knee and the other above the knee. Some of the things he's gone through, I'm glad I haven't gone through that.

"Once in a while, I think about what it would be like if I had arms and legs. But it doesn't do me any good to dwell on it. I can't change it, so I might as well make the best of it, for sure."

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0ivQMr_0h3JdnQh00
Aug. 1, 2022; Wickenburg, Ariz., U.S.; Wickenburg High School assistant football coach Carter Crosland (left) runs drills during practice at the school's football field. Samantha Chow/The Republic

Crosland lives a productive life with his wife, who babysits MacNeil's kids during the day.

He owns his home. He works from home as a landscape designer for a national company. His move from central Utah to Wickenburg was prompted by family, familiarity with the state and his desire to get away from the cold winters. He had lived in Chandler for a couple of years, before returning to Utah.

He moved to Wickenburg last year, knowing he would have help with his aunt and uncle living there and his grandparents spending winters there. It was too late to join the high school team, so he helped out on the youth level.

"I came here often to visit them," Crosland said. "When COVID hit (in 2020) and I started working from home full-time, it was time to get back to Arizona, because I don't like snow. Get away from the snow, and life is good."

Inspired by his high school football coach, who took him in as an honorary member of the team, Crosland had helped coach in Utah at the youth, high school and college levels, even semi-professional.

"The coach I had growing up was awesome and I loved football," said Crosland, who got his degree from Southern Utah.

Crosland spends hours breaking down film. He lends insight that the head coach may not see.

When MacNeil was promoted from assistant coach to replace Mike Mitchell in June , MacNeil took on Crosland as an assistant, impressed by his ability to get around town in his chair and his desire to coach.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1t7ccW_0h3JdnQh00
Aug. 1, 2022; Wickenburg, Ariz., U.S.; Wickenburg High School head football coach Ishmael MacNeil blows his whistle during practice at the school's football field. Samantha Chow/The Republic

"The kids know he's always going to be here," MacNeil said. "He makes that sacrifice to get here no matter what. Right now, it's blazing hot in that chair. But he gets here every day."

Crosland has become an inspiration in Wickenburg, including to his cousins, Carter and Jaxson Hone. Carter is a junior and Jaxson, a backup quarterback, is a sophomore.

"I see him driving that thing all around town," Jaxson said. "He has the willpower to do that even in a wheelchair.

"Coming out here every day, even though he doesn't need to, it's amazing. He wants to be exactly like everyone is treated here."

Carson has grown up witnessing a man full of fight and no excuses to prevent him from accomplishing whatever he set his mind to.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3I0lXK_0h3JdnQh00
Aug. 1, 2022; Wickenburg, Ariz., U.S.; Wickenburg High School assistant football coach Carter Crosland (center) poses for a photo with his cousins Jaxson (left) and Carson Hone who play for the team. Samantha Chow/The Republic

"He would wrestle with us when we were little kids on the trampoline," Carson Hone said. "I watched him kick my little brother's butt."

Crosland doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him.

"I've never heard him say, 'I can't do something,' " Carson Hone said.

That's the mindset he has taken every day in his life, growing up in Fillmore, Utah, a town smaller than Wickenburg, learning from his grandfather, who was an all-state running back in Utah and a two-time state wrestling champion.

"Everyone is doing it, so I might as well, too," he said.

There was no frustration that he couldn't be on the field with everybody else during games.

"I think there would have been had I not been as included as I was," he said. "But I never felt like that. I was able to captain a couple of games my senior year, too. So that was cool."

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1gYsJ3_0h3JdnQh00
Aug. 1, 2022; Wickenburg, Ariz., U.S.; Wickenburg High School football players run drills during practice at the school's football field. Samantha Chow/The Republic

A communications major to start college, he wanted to be a broadcaster and called a couple of games on the radio. He had his own sports show. But his future brother-in-law, a car salesman, sold a car to a local high school football coach. That's how he got involved in coaching while going to college. He convinced him to change his major to history.

He calls himself a film junkie. He said he would like to someday be a head coach. But he says he's not ready now.

"I just want the players to know that it doesn't matter if you come from a small school," Crosland said. "Everybody's got their own story. Everybody's got their own issues they're dealing with. I just try to be a motivator. Try to let them know that regardless of their background or what their story is, if they want to do it, they can.

"There is nothing that is stopping them, except for themselves."

Nothing has ever stopped Crosland.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert .

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: No arms, no legs, no excuses: Wickenburg (Arizona) football coach Carter Crosland sees no obstacles

Comments / 2

Comments / 0