“You’re not disabled. You’re not handicapped. You can do whatever you want to, you just lost a leg.”
When Brandon first stepped into his local CrossFit gym, nobody expected him to be a superstar. He was just another new guy trying to stay healthy. For Brandon, it was different. He knew he’d do great things. He’d worked hard his entire life, so it wasn’t surprising when he went to a CrossFit fitness festival early in his CrossFit career. He did an open workout for adaptive athletes and finished 14th in the world. Now that he’s had a taste of the competitive scene, he wants more.
On August 12, 2007, Brandon got into an accident that would change his life forever. He was a normal boy from rural Arkansas. He played football. He’d just gotten his first truck. That evening, he rode his four-wheeler home from his friend’s house.
He was hit by a truck while crossing the highway.
Brandon was immediately flown to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He’d broken his whole right leg, left ankle, and pelvis. Then, eight days into his three-week stay, the doctors ran some tests on Brandon’s foot. He’d defaced the bottom in the accident, and now he couldn’t feel a thing. The doctors were worried. They stepped out of the room to talk to his parents. After coming back in, they gave Brandon his treatment options, including amputation. They said it would give him the possibility of a head start on recovery.
“Can y’all make me a leg to run faster?” He asked. They said yes. “That’s fine,” he said.
The loss of his leg barely slowed him down. Brandon had played football from 5th grade until he lost his leg the August before his 10th-grade year. In his senior year, he tried to play again. He couldn’t. Instead, he played baseball. It seemed like Brandon was invincible.
Then he and his friends graduated. Life always changes after graduation, but few lives change more than Brandon’s. He was under more stress than most and had finally reached his breaking point. His new life was overbearing. He didn’t like having to put a leg on just to go to the bathroom. He didn’t like swimming with his buddies because he didn’t want to be seen without his leg. He wanted to completely give up on everything, so he stopped working out and gave up across the board. He had suicidal thoughts. He now understood just how difficult life could be.
It hadn’t been smooth sailing from the start. When Brandon got home from the hospital, he was angry so that he kicked his in-house physical therapist out of his home. His parents were lifesavers. They told him nothing was going to change his situation. They pushed him to be better.
When Brandon lost his leg, they were shaken. However, his parents never let Brandon see their hurt; they’d hurt on their own time. When Brandon was around, they had a job to do. His parents didn’t let him sit in his anger. Mom pushed him to stay on top of school, and his dad pushed him to live a normal, physical life. He didn’t want Brandon to wear crutches with his prosthesis. His dad wanted him to be able to lead a normal life. He’d put Brandon’s hands on his own and walk backward. His dad taught him to walk again.
As a fresh high school graduate, Brandon went looking for direction. He needed to figure out what he was going to do with his life, and he stumbled onto electrical lineman work. He had a friend who worked on powerlines. Brandon figured he’d try it, so he called and applied to line school.
“I’ve got one leg. Is that a problem?” he asked.
“Yeah. Safety issues,” they said. They told him he wouldn’t be able to climb the poles.
“Well, let me try,” Brandon said. “If I can’t do it, you’ll never hear from me again.” And then he climbed the powerline pole.
It was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but he did it.
He called the school back and to tell them what he’d done. They said they’d get back to him. He made it 20 miles down the road before he got the call that offered a sponsorship paying for his school. After graduating, he got a job at an electric company in Little Rock, Arkansas.
That climb was the big turning point of his life. He was rejected hard and forced to make a decision. It made him realize he could do anything that he really wanted to do. That’s where he developed his conquer-the-world mentality. It’s that same mentality that’s allowed him to excel at CrossFit.
After leaving high school, Brandon struggled to find the perfect fit for his athletic drive. For a while, he ran, but it didn’t give him the physique he wanted. Instead, he turned to powerlifting, and that didn’t fit either. When he stepped into the CrossFit gym for the first time, he knew he’d fit perfectly. His foot, however, didn’t fit.
After Brandon lost his leg, he went to Snell Prosthetics and Orthotics.
“I’ve never even considered going anywhere else,” he said.
When he began regularly doing CrossFit, he realized he’d need a foot that could stand up to the sport’s specific stressors. His insurance didn’t want to pay for a new foot, though; they’d just bought him a new one. Because of the bad foot, he broke his prosthesis several times. Snell saw his problems and worked with him after hours to make sure he was able to keep doing the things he loves.
These days, Brandon is thriving. He and his wife Brianna had a son in early 2019. He’s been taking on more responsibility at his CrossFit gym and moving up the ladder at work. Few people truly know how tough life can be, but Brandon believes there’s more to life than falling down.