JIM PETERS: Prude is a source of inspiration to Rensselaer football team

2013-11-21T17:00:00Z 2013-11-22T02:34:05Z JIM PETERS: Prude is a source of inspiration to Rensselaer football teamJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
November 21, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

You'll find his name on Rensselaer's football roster. He's listed as No. 3, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound senior running back-defensive back.

Confined to a wheelchair by muscular dystrophy, Isiah Prude will never score a touchdown or make a tackle, but be assured he is a Bomber.

"He is a very important part of our team," Rensselaer coach Chris Meeks said.

Meeks first met Prude three years ago when the then-freshman was in his P.E. class. One of six children, Prude lived in Gary at a young age. Tragedy struck, and they were placed in the foster home system. When Isiah was 12, he and three of his brothers were adopted by Bill and Sharon Krintz of Rensselaer.

"Isiah and I became pretty close," Meeks said. "I know as a teacher you are not supposed to have favorite students, but he was mine."

The feelings were mutual.

"Mr. Meeks inspired me," Prude said. "He's a very good motivator."

Prude began attending Bombers games and a greater interest was kindled.

"He developed a real love for Bomber football," Meeks said. "He wanted to be a part of the team, and the team wanted him to be a part. Our team loves him."

That's when Prude became No. 3.

"I thought it fit me perfect," Prude said. "It was the number right after my buddy, Eli Isom."

Road trips in the Hoosier Conference are long, but it hasn't ever kept Prude from being on the sidelines with his teammates.

"Isiah's not too talkative, but you can definitely tell he cares," senior Clayton Geyer said. "We take him to all the team dinners, let him hold the trophies. He appreciates the stuff we do, and he means a lot to us, too."

How much? On senior night, the seniors named Prude team captain before the game, and he represented them during the coin flip.

"What an awesome experience," Meeks said.

Along the way, players took up a collection to buy Prude an honor (letterman's) jacket, which is traditionally purchased by the school after an athlete accumulates the required number of participation points. The black jacket with a red R was presented to Prude in the locker room before the Oct. 18 game at Benton Central. For those who witnessed it, it was a moment they will never forget.

"It's the best feeling I've ever had," Prude said. "It was just a big surprise. I didn't even know it was coming. It makes me feel honored."

When Rensselaer faces adversity in a game, Prude's presence is a source of strength and determination to rise to the challenge in front of them.

"One of our first sectional games, he was brought up in pregame," Geyer said. "If we were Isiah, just think of what he's feeling, how badly he wants to play. You can't take anything for granted. It makes you go as hard as you can."

Prude will be at Tipton for tonight's Class 2A semistate. Nothing could keep him away.

"We want to face these guys," he said. "We have our quarterback, and they have their quarterback this time. I want it to be a really good game. I'm looking forward to the win."

Prude has been to Lucas Oil Stadium for a tour but never for a game. If the Bombers win tonight, he will be on the turf with them next week.

In the spring, Prude will graduate from Rensselaer. He wants to become a P.E. teacher and football coach.

"Like my buddy," he said. "Mr. Meeks."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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