Garrett Techs Singleton overcomes obstacle to find success
Garrett Tech sophomore lineman Ron Singleton has been playing football since he was 8 years old. Like many of his peers, he dreams of playing college football. His favorite NFL players are Randy Moss and Michael Vick.
“Michael Vick doesn’t let anyone keep him down,” said the 6-4, 230-pound Singleton, who turned 16 this week. “He shoots for the stars.”
Singleton also shoots for the stars. He is a starter for the Falcons’ junior varsity team on both the offensive and defensive lines and is a backup on the varsity team. He blocks and tackles just like thousands of other teenagers who play high school football. But there is one notable difference — Singleton only has one arm.
“I am the same as everybody else,” Singleton said. “The best thing about it is I get treated the same as everyone else. I get no special treatment.”
Complications during childbirth resulted in severe nerve damage to Singleton’s left hand and lower arm. The prognosis wasn’t good, but Joenelle Singleton chose not to have her son’s arm amputated.
“I decided to let him make the choice when he reached the age of reason,” she said. “I didn’t want him to come up to me when he was older and say, ‘Why did you make the decision that affected my body. Why did you do it?’ ”
Singleton eventually made his own decision and had his arm amputated prior to starting his freshman year at Garrett Tech. He had atrophy in part of his arm and he couldn’t stretch or flex his fingers.
“Before it was amputated, it was just there,” Singleton said. “I didn’t want it to hinder me.”
Singleton has experienced the phenomenon known as phantom limbs in which a person can feel body parts that are no longer there. Some scientists believe it has to do with a kind of neural map that the brain has of the body.
“Sometimes it twitches,” Singleton said. “It is a weird feeling.”
On the football field, Singleton said his biggest thrill came last fall when he recovered a fumble against Bishop England in a junior varsity game.
Paul Spence, who coaches the Bishops’ JV team, is impressed with Singleton’s ability and attitude.
“He plays the offensive and defensive line and you would think a player with one arm couldn’t block or tackle,” Spence said. “But he’s something else. He’s a hard worker. He played against us last year and this year, and from what I see, this kid doesn’t look as it as a disadvantage. I see it as something he’s overcome. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself.”
Garrett Tech coach Rick Burns admits he wasn’t sure what to expect when he first saw Singleton.
“I was skeptical,” he said. “But now, I think he is an excellent player. I try to keep him on offense, but he likes defense.”
Joenelle Singleton said she has learned a lot from her son, but admits she’s still nervous about him playing football.
“I wasn’t sure if I should have let him play,” she said. “But he said, ‘Mom, I get it. I will be OK.’
“When he was young, his first coach Al Graham (of the North Charleston Recreation Department) did a great job of developing Ron and calming my nerves. Football is Ron’s life. Football motivates him. It’s his dream. He doesn’t let his disadvantage stop him. It’s a lesson we all should learn.”