"What makes you different from everyone else?" was the question put before the junior communications class at Dondero High in Royal Oak, Mich., one morning in October. Students had to cite their distinguishing characteristics, ranging from hair color to family heritage. The only one to take the Fifth was Joe Scheid, a starting wide receiver on the varsity football team.
"What about you?" a class member loudly asked Joe.
"What about me?" he replied quietly.
"You have only one arm," the student said.
Joe looked up and said, "So?"
The oddness of being a wide receiver with only one full arm seems to escape Joe. Nor does he understand why others think him so courageous for even attempting to play football. "I don't see why it's a big deal," the 16-year-old athlete says, baffled that residents of suburban Detroit find his story compelling.
"Parents with no connection to Dondero High bring their kids to our games just so they can watch Joe," says coach Mike McElroy, whose 1997 team finished 3-6.
Joe's mother understands his nonchalance about his athletic achievement. "Joe wasn't handicapped by the accident," says Mary Lou Scheid. "Just inconvenienced."
"The accident" occurred 10 years ago. Joe was snow-sledding on a small hill at a relative's farm. He lost control and slid into the rotating blades of a snowblower. Thirty-five hours of surgery repaired injuries to his neck, shoulder blade and right arm, but his left arm, severed just above the elbow, couldn't be saved. "I used to be kind of quiet, but after the accident I became a more aggressive person," says Joe. "I didn't want anything to get in my way."
Four months after leaving the intensive-care unit, Joe joined the local youth soccer league and put his new attitude on display. While Joe was throwing an inbounds pass in one game, a defender inquired about the arm. "My dad chopped it off with a chain saw," Joe said.