Beyond the Jersey: “Disability don’t define me, my opportunities are unlimited”

Beyond The Jersey

If you’re watching the Highland Baptist football team, you may notice the players on offense are also the players on defense. 

It’s a lot of work playing on both sides of the ball, but Tanner Vicknair doesn’t mind it. 

Vicknair was born with autism, but he doesn’t let that stop him from playing the game his family has played for years. 

“My dad played it for a little while, my grandpa did and then my uncle did,” Vicknair recalls.

He can be seen playing running back, linebacker, defensive line, pretty much any position on the football field.

“He came out football last year, first time ever playing football, pretty nervous but ended up being like an energizer bunny on the field,” says Highland Baptist football coach Scottie Williams.

Not many people would know it, but Vicknair was born with autism. 

Because of that, he may come off shy at first.

“Outside the field, he’s very calm, since he has autism he has to trust you before he actually opens up,” Williams says.

But once that helmet’s on, you would never know he was capable of being timid. 

“On game days he quickly showed that’s what he’s going to bring every day. he just doesn’t quit, whatever we ask he’s going to try 100% to give it,” says the coach.

Vicknair adds:  “It’s just coming together really. It’s not often that a team just comes together like we do.”

Vicknair doesn’t let his autism get in the way of playing the game he loves.

“People say you can’t do it like I always say just prove them wrong, work hard and be the best you can be,” Vicknair says.

Willaims says: “He’s just a normal kid. Some people try and treat him differently because he has autism but when he has a helmet on or just around he’s just another guy.”

And he wants everyone else to know, he’s just like any other kid.

“Disability doesn’t define me, my opportunities are unlimited,” Vicknair says,

Vicknair says his football team is his family and being around them is his favorite part about playing the game.

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