U of A adaptive rugby team takes aim at national championship - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

U of A adaptive rugby team takes aim at national championship

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TUCSON -- On a basketball court at the University of Arizona Rec Center, the number one team Adaptive Rugby team in the nation starts practice. 

"It gets pretty aggressive," player CJ Brown said. "You got to keep your head up or you can take a lick, you can take a pretty big hit. I was always an athlete before my accident. i played basketball, i wrestled all through high school and then when i got hurt I didn't know there were sports out there." 

It was February 2008. Brown was volunteering at a Christian camp near his home in Washington State when he fell off a roof. The concrete broke his 23 foot fall. 

"I never thought anybody in a wheelchair could be active," Brown said. "When I first got hurt I wasn't in denial i was paralyzed but I never knew there was sports or you could drive or any of that stuff until I met rugby. Rugby opened a whole new world to me."

Brad McFadden's world changed after a diving accident left him paralyzed 24 years ago. McFadden coaches the U of A adaptive rugby squad. He says he was turned on to wheelchair rugby by the game's speed.

"These chairs have angle on the wheels, they're built for full contact," McFadden said. "That's something that got my heart going."  

The team is practicing in one of their last tune ups for the national finals later this week in Phoenix. Win or lose up north, it just doesn't really matter.  

"It gets you out of the house and on top of that you're with a bunch of people in the same position as you," teammate Chris Fleace said. "It's a fun sport, it keeps you healthy. "It's changed my life, a complete 180." 

"I just fell in love with the sport," Brown said. It just helped me learn my day to day life stuff. They've lived this stuff that I'm trying to learn to live. Now, I'm that mentor to new players or new patients in the hospital."

The team's first round game in the national finals is slated for Thursday at 2 p.m. against Portland.  

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