November 5, 2009

Big target: Middle-school WR checks in at 7-4

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The Morgan Middle School football team in Ellensburg, Wash., doesn't need a sheet to know when to go for the two-point conversion. It may have a sure-fire play: Just throw it to Brenden Adams.

Adams, you see, is 7-foot-4.


Brenden Adams towers over other players.
That's right; the tallest teen-age boy in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records is playing football this year. In middle school.

"This is the first year my mom's let me play," Adams told Melissa Luck, an executive producer for KXLY4 in Spokane. "She thought I was gonna get hurt or something. It's my favorite sport and she said this is an opportunity she didn't want me to miss."

Luck's story details Adams' growth and his love of the game.

First, his height.

He was an average newborn, measuring just over 19 inches. But by five months old, he had gained 14 pounds and had all of his teeth. At 2, he was 3-foot-5; by 5 he was 4-for-5. At ll, he was 6-foot-8. He's now 14.

Adams gave Luck the medical explanation for his growth: "It was my 12th chromosome that broke in half and flipped over and reattached," he said.

While his height makes strangers wonder if he's an athlete, the truth is, his height actually holds him back as it comes with serious health problems, including enlarged joints and unusual blood counts. He already has arthritis.

"I can't run anymore," Adams said in the story. "I can't be active like I used to."

Height, actually, is a detriment in football. While NFL players keep getting bigger, the truth is, it's usually bigger, not taller.

Two of the league's most famous tall players - Eagles' 6-8 receiver Harold Carmichael and Cowboys' 6-9 defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones - were stars more than a generation ago.

A quick search finds only two pro players who were taller than 7-feet: Richard Sligh, a 1967 draftee of the Raiders who was an even 7-0; and Bob Bobinghanger, who was 7-7 and played for a number of teams when pro football was in its infancy in the '40s.

Morris Stroud, who played for the Chiefs in 1970-74 is often recognized as the tallest player in the modern era at 6-10.

Adams will never make the NFL, but his height did help him earn a spot on Oprah - where he met (and looked down on) Shaquille O'Neal. He couldn't get a spot on the field until he was cleared by a doctor. Last year, he served as a team manager.

"This year he asked if he could play for the team," Kevin Wetzel, his coach, said. "I said if you can get a doctor's clearance, we'd be happy to have you."

Once that was approved, it was time to find his role. Since he's easily winded, only short passing routes made sense.

"He can't run, he can't really jump," Wetzel told the station. "There's not a whole lot he can do. If you want to get him some action, you have to be creative."

So they created a play: Adams takes a few steps, turns around and waits for the quarterback to loft him the ball.

And though he's only been on the field a few times this season, the payoff is unmistakable. When he's out there, he feels like just another teenager.

"Don't think people are weird just by the way they look," he said. "Because I'm a nice person."

It doesn't appear that he'll be the world's tallest person; that mark belongs to Sultan Kosen of Turkey, who measures just over 8-1.

Doctors have been giving Adams testosterone shots over the last several years to stop his growth. They appear to be working; he hasn't grown in the last six months.

Except, of course, as a football player.

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