Edwardsburg football player with prosthetic leg proves he can play

EDWARDSBURG, Mich. (WNDU) - Derik Smith is the new kid on the block at Edwardsburg High School.

"At my old school, everybody was looking forward to meeting the new kids," Derik said. "For me, talking to my old friends, I can say I've met 800 or 900 new kids."

Derik transferred to Edwardsburg from Burns Junior-Senior High School, which is just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The first thing he did when he came to Michigan was sign up for the football team.

"He doesn't hang in the back like some new kids would," Edwardsburg head coach Kevin Bartz said. "He jumps right in. He's one of those kids who jumps right out there and says, 'Give me an opportunity, give me a shot and I'll show you what I can do,' and every opportunity we've given him he's taken advantage of and showed us he can play."

That opportunity to play never came for Derik at his old school in Wyoming.

"They didn't really let me play because of my leg," Derik said. "Just because they didn't think that a person with one leg could play."

Football has always been on his mind, but when Derik was 6 years old, he shattered his leg playing football in his house. When his mom took him to the doctor, she learned he had developed neurofibromatosis No. 1 with pseudoarthrosis of the tibia, a type of bone cancer.

But that wasn't the worst of the news.

"The doctors said, 'You need to cut off his leg now,'" Derik's mom, Charlene, said. "Derik pulls up his little legs and he starts to cry. It was awful. I just couldn't believe they wanted to cut off his leg. I just thought that guy was wack."

The doctors gave Derik the option to pursue chemotherapy or amputate his leg. After three years of being sidelined on the football field due to chemo, Derik thought it was time to go through with the amputation.

"It was hard," Derik said. "It was keeping my leg or getting on the field. Do I want to sit on the sidelines and watch my friends be what I want to be, or do I want to do what I want to do? Not have my friends have my life? [I wanted to] have my own life."

Derik had his right leg amputated when he was 9 years old, all so he could play the game he loves, football.

Derik never lets his prosthetic leg hold him back.

"It's like a new dream every game," Derik said. "Before every game, I talk to myself about what would have happened if I didn't have it amputated, and then I tell myself, 'OK, Derik. You have to prove to yourself that you had it amputated for a reason, and you've got to prove to everybody else that you can do it.'"

Derik has done more than just prove people wrong. He's inspired a community to never give up.

"He is such a good pick for this catch of life that he's got, because he is very humble," Charlene said. "When you are in the fray of whatever God has given you, you roll with it and it's not that bad. If you make it that bad and you spin on it, then it sucks and you can't be like that."

Derik hasn't been like that one bit. He says he always feels like that 6-year-old kid playing football in the living room, and he never wants to lose that feeling.

"I guess I always have that, I always have that childhood feeling," Derik said. "I don't feel like a different person. I feel like I fit in with everyone else. I just don't think that because I don't have a right foot that I just can't be like other people. I know I have a prosthetic leg, but I don't feel like I have one. You've got to drive for what you love to do. Just keep driving for what you love."

Derik already has two scholarship offers to run track in college at Arizona State University and at the University of Texas at Arlington.

However, Derik says his goal is to play college football.

But when he's done playing football, Derik says he wants to design prosthetic legs so he can help give children who went through what he went through the belief that they can do anything.