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College Stories

The story of a Paralympic gold medal-winning sled hockey player

May 14, 2020

Josh Pauls was only 10 months old when his parents decided to have his legs amputated at the knee because he was born without shin bones.

“Growing up, it was a part of who I am,” Pauls said. “Now, it’s a part of my identity.”

For his entire life, things that were basics of everyday life for most people were more complicated for Pauls, who wears prosthetic legs. 

“I just had to plan a little bit more than others,” Pauls said. “Especially in college with the parking, and the hills. Now, it’s less challenging because I’m walking everywhere.”

While, as Pauls mentioned, his amputation is a part of his identity, so is the sport of sled hockey. He got into the sport in large part due to his parents, who were both big fans. Pauls watched his first game of sled hockey at eight years old, and started playing it at 10 when he joined a team, the New Jersey-Woodbridge Warriors, about 30 minutes away from him.

In sled hockey, disabled athletes compete in specially made sleds with two blades on the bottom and use two hockey sticks to propel themselves.

“I don’t know if it’s the freedom it gives me, but it’s the sport for me,” Pauls said.

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Reaching for the pros: Erik Henneman's road to becoming an NFL prospect

Nov. 21, 2019

With numerous highlights, accolades and school records to his name, Erik Henneman has become one of the best tight ends in all of Division II football.

But his path wasn’t always a straightforward one, and football wasn’t the original goal. 

“I was mostly concentrated on basketball,” Henneman said. “My whole high school career, I always wanted to play basketball. Basketball was my first true love.”

This ambition began when Henneman was cut from his seventh-grade football team. The coaches would bring him back onto the team a week later due to a player suffering an injury. Despite playing football from the age of seven to 12 in his native state of Louisiana, Henneman’s vision for himself was to be on the court instead, playing basketball at both the high school and collegiate level. 

The lone sport Henneman played freshman and sophomore year of high school was basketball, and he played all over the court. Some games he played down low as center, others he played as a guard. 

After spending those two years without pads and a helmet on, a close friend and teammate, Jamon Brown, pushed and encouraged him to return to the football field. Brown had played football with Henneman since middle school.

“I told Erik and other basketball players ‘what do you all have to lose’,” Brown said. “And told Erik he had a better chance than the rest.”

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