This High School Football Player Hit the Field After Losing a Leg

Losing a leg can force a football player into retirement, but JaQue Billingsley wasn't ready to give up on his dreams.

While a freshman at Northside High in Warner Robins, GA, JaQue signed up for wrestling to stay in shape for his true passion, football. One day, his wrestling partner slammed him to the ground, and his knee rolled underneath his body. He was rushed to the hospital, where he discovered that he had dislocated his kneecap and had severely torn ligaments in his knee.

JaQue's complications with his knee got worse when doctors told him he had severed an artery in his leg and circulation was being severely limited. Eventually, the teen's right leg was amputated below the knee.

The teen couldn't believe this happened to him. "I was just thinking, 'What went wrong? How is that an option?'" he recalls. Still, he was lucky - doctors told his family they were initially concerned that blood clots could rush to his head or his heart.

Just three years later, JaQue is not only back to playing football, he's been touted as the strongest player on his team. "It's like running against a brick wall," says one of his teammates.

"I have to change peoples' minds by showing them what I can do," said JaQue. "I have to get them to realize that I can do anything that somebody else can do."

His mother, Cynthia, is proud of her son's strength. "'I'm going to be the first amputee in the NFL.' That's where his mind was," she said. "He was never, 'Woe is me.'"

Off the field, the 17-year-old keeps active. He plays wheelchair basketball and hopes to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil. He recently broke a U.S. Junior Disability Championship record after bench-pressing 407 pounds.

The number one thing that has gotten him through these difficult years is keeping a positive attitude. "It was just a minor setback for a major comeback," he says of his injury.

Head here to watch JaQue's inspiring story as part of Sports Illustrated's "Underdogs" series.

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