HOUSTON — Athletes from across the country are in Houston for the weekend to compete for a spot on the USA Low Point Wheelchair Rugby team.
They're quadriplegic athletes, meaning they have impairments in all four limbs. But they're still able to move their upper extremities.
They've faced personal and physical challenges, but it hasn't stopped their competitive spirit.
As head coach Steve Kearly said, requirements for the wheelchair rugby team are what's expected of any pro-athlete: "The best talent, the best teammates, work ethic, guys that are coachable."
Thirty players will get picked from this weekend's tryouts, but they don't make the team automatically. Instead, they'll be picked for a months-long training camp. After that camp, only eight people will be selected to compete in the World Games this July.
"I was a motocross racer, indoor track, guy knocked me in the air, paralyzed from," said athlete Jeremy Hannaford. He came from Seattle for a spot on the team. After his accident, he has made wheelchair rugby his life.
Like many others, Hannaford heard about the sport after watching the 2005 documentary, "Murderball," showing the high-octane sport. It combines rugby, basketball and hockey while players go around in mad-max style wheelchairs.
"We can hit each other as hard as we want, try to lay each other out. It's pretty intense," said Coach Kearley.
Houston player Daniel Ortiz joined the sport during his recovery process with TIRR Memorial Hermann. He became wheelchair-bound when he was rear-ended after helping a stranded driver.
"There is so much stuff you can do," said Ortiz. "You don’t realize it when you’re hurt. You think that the world is over but it’s not."
Peggy Turner with TIRR said the event is the perfect example of what the hospital wants for it patients: independence and inclusion.
"They end up going to outpatient rehab, then they go home and for years, it's, 'Then what?'" Turner said. "And this is where TIRR says, 'Let's get back to community physical activity.'"
As these athletes compete for a spot on the national team, Coach Kearley says there's no need for any pity parties.
"God forbid someone sustains a spinal cord injury or goes through something traumatic like this," he said. "Life is still what you make of it."
Editor's Note: The following video was uploaded in June 2017