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A boy can't tie his shoes He attempts and he fails. He tries to go to school when nobody is around. The other 7-year-olds are able to do it. It's simple for them.

The mother knows what she wants. A mother and son are sitting in a trailer. A boy was born with a single arm. He tried to jam a lace against the nub below his left elbow while he worked the laces into bows. Do you mean bunny ears? Do you mean loop and swoop? Do you want to come around the mountain? There is nothing that works. The laces aren't sticking.

It goes by in hours. The boy isn't happy. It is later than expected. A mother cuts down trees. Every morning, chainsaws and machinery are in use. She needs a good night's rest. The boy is asked by the mother to come in. She wants to try again tomorrow.

The boy pressed the laces against his nub again. The mother is upset. He is left in the recliner in the living room. She could still hear the boy as she lay down in her bed. The nightmare starts with your eyes open, and the mother lies there listening to her son fail over and over.

She wonders if this is his life. Is this how it will be? She wonders why it has to be this way. Is her boy able to do something?

Born with one full arm, Kayleb Wagner averaged 13 yards per carry and 244 yards per game last season. The only thing that feels harder for him than a running back with two hands? "Get noticed," he says. Tamika Moore for ESPN

On a blast-fuRNACE morning in the Florida Panhandle last month, KaylebWagner took the handoff and cut through a hole in the line. A whistle blows and one of the high school coaches yells. If you're going to go that fast, turn the cameras off. Let's come on!

There is a sheepishly happy smile on the face ofWagner. He apologized and ran back to the center of the field. He drives with more purpose the next time. The hole was hit by him. He goes faster. He zips into open space, flashing the moves that brought the TV cameras and the attention, and everything else that has happened since last September.

The Florida state record for most rushing yards in a single game was set that night byWagner. The previous record was held by Henry, who ran for 500 yards on 45 carries. Henry went on to play at Alabama, win a Heisman and get drafted by the TennesseeTitans, who have become one of the most dominant running backs in the league.

The old record was destroyed byWagner. He ran for 535 yards on 25 runs. It looks like a video for "How do I torch a defense?" when you watch the Baker game.

I asked if he remembered how long each of his touchdown runs were. He looked at the ceiling and tried to remember some numbers. He shook his head and said that he was tired after trying to give the ref the ball so he could get some water.

He laughs and adds to the feeling of unlikeliness that hangs over him as he heads into his senior year.

This isn't what we expected. The big, thumping backs who come from football powerhouse cities like Miami or Jacksonville are supposed to be the record holders in prestigious high school football states. In the heart of Okaloosa County there is a stoplight and a practice field.

It is thought that record holders are in high demand. It was suppose to be a big deal. Wouldn't it be great to have college recruiters all over them, with coaches and evaluators talking to them about possibilities? If anyone from the big time will ever come his way, that's not asking a lot. Despite breaking the record, he's currently committed to Southern Illinois, which is the only program that is serious about pursuing him.

Wagner set the Florida state record for most rushing yards in a single game in 2021. He ran for 535 yards on just 25 carries, 20 fewer than the previous record holder, Derrick Henry, needed. Tamika Moore for ESPN

It has not been the way anyone might have thought it would be. No one knew the record had been broken until the next day. After midnight, a local journalist sent a text message to Matt Brunson, Baker's athletic director. When he got word that he was going to eat a five-egg steak and cheese omelette at Waffle House, he tried to reach out to Wagner, but he was told that he was already eating. He didn't know about his fame until the next day.

The circus was unlike anything Baker had seen before. Interviews are taking place. People are calling. The camera crews are working. There are lights A pancake breakfast is a big event here.

Sam Huertas was worried that her son's ego was going to explode and she was proud of him. She wanted him to stay grounded. She jokes that she tells him he eats every day. He'll say, "Oh yeah, I did this and this and this, and I'll be like, "Yep, and you're still eating s---.""

It would have been difficult for anyone to stay level. There is a school at that location. There is a person in the store. He worked at the gas station. After the game, Kaylee had to go to the school office to get a tardy pass. When the woman in the office asked for her name, she was interrupted by a woman behind the counter. You're all good, right?

He looked at his phone in biology class. He motioned to his friend who was sitting next to him. No one said anything. He turned his phone around in order to see the screen.

I don't think so. There's a word for it. Both boys' eyes were wide as they looked at the message from the man. Is that really happening? Baker wanted to know.

It wasn't a lie. He was invited by Henry to be on the sideline of a game. He received a jersey and cleats in the mail. He talked with Henry both at the game and over the phone, and he made sure to ask for advice.

They're still in touch, and when I ask if there's a particular lesson he has learned from Henry, he says always stay focused on the work. It's always a good idea to always be on top of getting better.

It's important because he now finds himself facing the same question Henry did as he nears the end of his high school career.

What do you think will come next?

The Titans star invited Wagner to a game in Jacksonville and mailed him a jersey and signed cleats. Tamika Moore for ESPN

No one imagined it would be like this. It's not possible. She felt a pop in her belly when she was four months pregnant. She couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right despite the doctors telling her everything was fine.

At seven months, her doctor told her that she was going to be one of the first women in the area to use a three-dimensionalultrasound. The doctor said it would make you feel better. It was obvious when the technicians looked at the images that something wasn't right. amniotic band syndrome is a condition in which tissue wraps around a fetus. It can prevent limbs from growing. Sam's baby had a missing arm and hand.

She was shattered when she sat with her mom. She wanted to know how he was going to play football. He's going to ride a bike.

Before she gave birth, she took classes and watched videos about children with disabilities. She concluded that the only philosophy she could teach her child was acceptance and adaptation after watching a video of a lady eating with her toes. She says that if you baby them, that really cripples them.

It wasn't easy in a small town where the pain of being different was constant. There was a time when a kid ran up to a teacher and yelled "Where is your arm?" in a crowded hallway. Over and over, where is your arm? The Thanksgiving community played when a little boy began shouting after the family walked through the door. There is a monster. The boy pointed at the boy.

When he was younger, he would put his hands behind his back and wear long-sleeve shirts on the hottest days of the year. I was embarrassed of it for a long time, so I tried to hide it. The man is showing me his nub.

What did you see change? He doesn't hesitate.

I think my mom is really. She told her that it was who she was.

The man remembers how Huertas would push him, not hiding his arm. Adults around him didn't know what to do with him.

Wagner credits his attitude to his mom, Sam Huertas, who pushed him not to hide his arm and encourages him to embrace who he is. Tamika Moore for ESPN

He loved football the most. He was drawn to the game at a young age. He wanted to run with the ball, but his coaches told him it wasn't safe for him to do so. He said he was a center in Pee Wee. Do you think I look like a center to you? He doesn't seem to care. Until they gave me a chance, nobody knew what I had.

It meant everything when it came in middle school. A new determination was brought to him by being a central part of the school program and the fact that he had learned how to balance his bike without training wheels.

He would like to carry. He wanted people to accept him. He wanted to be the same person. The team made him feel like he could fit in. The drills were done by him. The man did the study. The work was done by him. By high school, at 215 pounds, he was a top lifter in the team's weight room, balancing the bench press bar on his nub or using the crook at his left elbow to power clean loads. He uses a custom-made Prosthetic to keep his weight constant. In the middle of his reps, Baker would watch what his friend was doing.

In Baker High's state championship game victory, as a backup in his sophomore year, he led the team in rushing yards and scored a touchdown. He was the featured back last year and averaged 13 yards per carry and 244 yards per game.

He has fumbled only four times in three seasons. The assumption from opponents is that he is more prone to losing the ball than other backs with two full arms. When defensive players try to tackle him, they don't wrap up his legs so it's easier for him to run past them.

He'll fight if that doesn't work. When he needs to switch the ball, he will. If it is necessary, he will cover it up. He will push with his nub as hard as anyone else will push him on plays where he doesn't get the ball.

A running back with two hands is harder to do than any other. One morning, I asked the man.

He said yes. Get noticed.

Wagner works as a landscaper when he's not at school or on the football field. Tamika Moore for ESPN

He thought he was going to West Point after graduating. He said that the coaches from Army reached out to him and showed him some of his highlights. They were impressed with the way they acted. He was wanted to be recruited. He posted on social media that he was going to join the army.

The coaches backed off after a few weeks. He wasn't sure what he was thinking. The coaches from Army told her that they didn't know about the missing hand and wouldn't be able to serve. She says they couldn't tell the difference between a tailback with two hands and a man with only one hand. She1-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-6556 The Army can't comment on potential recruits.

They couldn't tell the difference and that's a good thing. He received the most interest from a school that didn't know him. Many of the people that know about him have changed their minds.

It didn't bring a lot of coaches or people to recruit me. He doesn't know what to think. It hurt.

There have been some small movements. Barry Gardner is the head coach of Baker. Southern Miss does as well. South Florida could be looking at him as well. There are always questions about whether he can hold onto the ball. He can catch a ball. Is it possible to throw left? Is there a way to get a pass out of the back field?

Since he's still in high school, university officials wouldn't say anything about him. There is a cold bottom line component to recruiting that is impossible to ignore.

A talent evaluator told me that even if there was a history of one-handed ball carriers being successful at the college level, it could be a risk for a head coach to bring them in. Even if it wasn't that kid's fault, if a play went bad or a pitch got fumbled in a big spot, it raises questions that a coach might not want to answer.

An official from a Power 5 school said that if there were two hands, there would be interest from higher quality schools. The official said there was no doubt without that limitation. With that limitation, the concern is always "Can there be flexibility here?" Is a linebacker going to worry about catching a pass when he runs down the field? That is a big problem if not.

Wagner is a top lifter in his team's weight room, using the crook at his left elbow to power clean loads. He also uses a prosthetic to help keep the weight even. Tamika Moore for ESPN

Some schools inquired if he would switch to defense, where his football IQ and instincts could be used without worry over the ball. Shaquem was born with amniotic band syndrome and went on to play in the NFL. It was like I suggested to switch to soccer when I mentioned this to Wagner. The man is wrinkling his nose and sighing. He said he wanted to show the world he could run the football.

He surprised a lot of people by being true to himself and believing in what he could do. He shouldn't stop now. It would be like putting the long-sleeve shirts back on if he switched from defense to offense. When he was small, he hid his arm behind his back.

He doesn't want to be known as the person who broke the record. I want to be happy about who I am. I would like people to think of me as a person who knows himself.

He has committed to Southern Illinois because they want to give him the ball. Getting the ball is what makes the man happy.

He is happy about Southern Illinois. She just wants to see the man happy. He looks at his face when his legs are wide and his head is back. She knows how to operate a Weedwacker with one hand, how to drive a car with one hand, and how to cast a fishing rod with one hand. She says it's what makes him great. What makes him unique?

I asked Huertas if she ever imagined what a life with two hands would be like. Why did this happen to him?

She looks happy.

She doesn't. I don't think he would be as successful if he had two hands. She doesn't seem to care. She gestured at him and waved her hand. She says that this is why it happened. This is the reason.

She says that he is her superhero. All of us have our own. My name is Kayleb.

Wagner has committed to Southern Illinois because it wants to give him the ball rather than switch him to defense. Tamika Moore for ESPN

The mother is asleep in her bed. It is early in the morning. She listens and doesn't hear anything. She takes a break, just for a second, to think about the night before. When did her boy go to sleep? She wonders if he had a good night's sleep.

She starts to get up. She leaves the bedroom and walks down the hallway. The boy is in the same spot as the mother left him. When she approaches, he sits up.

He said to her. "watch"

He put on a shoe. He pins one lace around his nub and the other lace through it. He pulls slowly until there are two bows. There are two bunny ears There are two ovals on the top of the shoe.

He looks at Mom. I should look at what I can do.