KENESAW, Neb. (KSNB) -- Sam Schukei has done his part to lead his high school football team to a 6-0 start this season. But there's something that separates this defensive end from the rest of his teammates.
At three years old, Schukei lost his leg in a lawnmowing accident. While it was a tragic injury, it hasn't stopped him from being an athlete. It's a feat not many could overcome, but Schukei says the loss of his leg has improved his work ethic drastically.
With a prosthetic leg, Schukei suits up every Friday Night for the Kenesaw Blue Devil football team in Kenesaw, Nebraska. Playing defensive end is all about speed, leverage and power; skills that are hard enough for players with two legs.
"Everything just seems normal for me," he said. "I don't feel out of my element too much, despite the fact that everyone else has two legs, but I don't really think about that."
And the loss of his leg didn't impact his love for sports.
"I grew up pretty much, the only thing I knew was having one leg, so it seemed normal to me," he said.
On the field, Schukei uses a carbon fiber prosthetic that allows him to move like everyone else. But there are some challenges.
"Footing is kind of an issue sometimes, but over the years I've learned to adapt myself and have learned to work with my leg in a way that is effective," he explained.
Those adjustments are paying off this season. So far, he's recorded 21 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
The hard work has also inspired his teammates.
"He's not going to let that prosthetic leg become a crutch for him," said Craig Schnitzler, head football coach. "When he's playing, you don't know he even has it. I think that's what he carries. He's driven. He's driven to play hard."
While there's all the temptation in the world to say that a play here or there may have been different with two legs, Schukei says the tought's never crossed his mind.
"If I could get my other leg back, I wouldn't take it because having one leg has given me work ethic," he said. "It's made me try harder, which has put me in the position that I am today."