MOORE — It’s 5:30 a.m.
Outside the first, faint rays of sunlight scatter through the dark, tall trees. Somewhere down the street, a small dog barks.
It’s still in this neighborhood — just a stones throw off Fourth Street — most people are asleep.
Most, but not all.
At home, Daniel Allen is awake.
He sits up, rubs his face and “wonders if he’s still on Earth” for several minutes before getting dressed — work-out shorts, a tank top, shoes and his right leg.
“Can’t forget my leg,” he says, with a chuckle. “A leg is always a good thing.”
Once the wayward limb is reattached, he heads downstairs, grabs an energy drink and leaves.
He’s got about 30 minutes to get to the field.
Thirty minutes before football practice starts.
Thirty minutes and Daniel Allen is ready to play.
Standing about five-foot, six-inches tall and roughly 140 pounds, Daniel is slim, with curly black hair, brown eyes and a never-ending smile.
At 17, this high school junior is the typical teenage kid. He’s fascinated by cars — the faster the better — and he spends a good portion of his time flirting unmercifully with the female members of Moore’s high school population.
He’s funny, articulate and easy going.
He’s the kid who carries your groceries to the car; the one who mows lawns in the summer for extra cash.
He’s also the kid with the insight of an adult and the courage of a U.S. Marine.
Because Daniel Allen is a fighter.
And he’s fought since he came out of the womb.
The third of Mary and Tim Allen’s four children, it just days after Daniel was born that he displayed the first signs of what would become a childhood’s worth of health issues.
“We hadn’t had him home very long before he turned blue,” remembers Daniel’s dad, Tim. “We knew pretty quickly there was a problem.”
Several problems, in fact.
Doctors quickly discovered the bone which protects Daniel’s heart didn’t fully develop; that his right pulmonary artery was too small; and that there was a hole between the chambers of his heart.
In addition, they learned Daniel was born with one kidney, no muscles in his left thumb and a deformed ankle and foot.
“It was heartbreaking,” his dad said. “We were overwhelmed.”
Three months later, Daniel had his first heart surgery. He’d fight infection, asthma and a host of other problems.
But, as his dad said, he’s used to fighting.
There were more surgeries — operations to reattach muscle to his thumb and one to realign his foot.
One surgery was successful. But things didn’t work out so well for Daniel’s right leg.
And after two years of struggle, his parents and doctor decided that 3-year-old Daniel’s right foot and a portion of his ankle had to be removed.
“It was the most gut wrenching decision my wife and I ever made,” Tim Allen said. “It broke my heart.”
But Daniel’s leg healed. And slowly, over the years, he grew into the type of kid that — even today — amazes his dad.
“I can’t tell you a time when he ever was a quitter,” his dad said. “I’ve never seen that.”
Sure, Daniel was teased at school about having a “wooden leg” and often called names, but he remained unwounded.
“Daniel rarely ever got depressed,” his dad said. “He learned quickly how to tune the idiots out.”
You might say that — at an early age — Daniel mastered the art of self confidence.
He also found a new love — sports.
“Yeah, he’s a sports freak,” his dad said. “The biggest there is.”
Daniel’s love affair with the sporting world began early — when he was 10.
“Once, when he was young, he got interested in championship wrestling,” Tim Allen said. “He was trying out these moves and stuff. I told him there were real sports on television where teams actually competed without acting. So he started watching football.”
The team he watched just happened to be the University of Oklahoma, and it just happened to be the 2000 football season.
One national championship later, 10-year-old Daniel Allen was hooked.
And football, for the kid with the fake leg, became a way of life.
Last year, as he started his first year of high school, Daniel had three goals: Surviving his sophomore year, meeting cute girls and making the Moore Lions football team.
And while Daniel confesses he could do much better grade-wise, he did pass. He’ll also tell you that he had a blast and that high school is “the bomb.”
“School is awesome,” he says. “But by far, the best thing is high school; it’s not even close to junior high.”
Armed with a new group of friends — including several teachers — Daniel fits easily into the 11th grade.
Granted, he’s not big on science — but he keeps trying.
“Science is my worst subject. I just don’t get it. I can do everything else, just not freakin’ science.”
OK, so he probably won’t work for NASA.
But he survived. One goal down.
His second goal was somewhat more elusive; girls, he learned, required a great deal more thought.
Leveraging his no-fear attitude with a rapid-fire sense of humor, Daniel quickly figured out that cute girls love to laugh. And he also discovered that those same girls like to hang out with boys who make them laugh.
“Meeting girls, that’s been OK,” he said. “I’ve gone out on a few dates. It’s been fun.”
Goal number two — completed.
But it was that third goal — the most important one — that Daniel worked hardest on.
Because that goal has taken 17 years worth of sweat and strain.
Exactly three weeks and five days from today, the Moore Lions will take on the Westmoore Jaguars in the annual Moore War football game. Call it Cleveland County’s version of the Bedlam series.
Rest assured, Daniel Allen will be there.
Not as a fan, or as a student — but wearing a blue and white jersey and a new, custom made prosthetic leg. That night, Daniel Allen will suit up as an official member of the Lions’ varsity football team.
Goal number three. Accomplished.
“I was told I wouldn’t make it,” he said. “A bunch of kids told me how much of a loser they thought I was, but that pushed me even harder. I wanted to play. I wanted to make the team.”
That desire was so strong, in fact, he began practicing a year before he tried out.
“I practiced and practiced my kicking. Last year I could only go about 35 to 40 yards,” he said. “But this year I’m doing 45 yards. I’m still working on accuracy.”
But his biggest concern isn’t yardage, or trajectory, it’s the possibility that his right leg would come off as he kicks the ball.
“Last year it flew off all the time,” he said. “It was a big problem. It’s hard to play if you have to keep hopping over the field to get your leg.”
Daniel didn’t realize it at the time, but help was just down the road.
After previous news stories detailed his desire to play and his, errr, flying leg, officials with Oklahoma City’s Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc. offered to help.
After several meetings, Daniel was evaluated in June; there he met Kyle Sherk a certified orthotist for Hanger.
“We made a three dimensional model of him,” Sherk said. “We took a laser scan of his limb and began building a device to try and get him comfortable.”
Once they had Daniel up and walking, Sherk began modifying Daniel’s leg’s design to ensure it would survive a 17-year-old’s world of high school football.
“Daniel’s chief complaint was about kicking his prosthesis farther than he was kicking the football,” Sherk said. “That was the problem we wanted to solve.”
Redesigned from the sole up, Daniel’s new leg is made of laminated carbon fiber over a fiberglass frame. The limb features a bio-elastic inner socket, and a knee sleeve of soft gel with a fabric covering.
“He slides his leg into the flexible socket and rolls up the knee sleeve,” Sherk said. “That sleeve works as an extra locking mechanism to keep it (the leg) from flying off.”
The carbon material, Sherk said, is strong — the same material an Apache helicopter is made from.
“It’s a composite,” Sherk said. “It’s a long string of carob that’s laminated in the fiberglass for extra strength.”
The “bio-elastic” component of the prosthesis makes the artificial limb “skin friendly and flexible to some degree.”
For Daniel it means the leg will take abuse — and even better yet — stay attached when he’s attempting that 50-yard field goal.
“Daniel has been a challenge,” Sherk said. “It’s not every day we have a patient kicking a football with a prosthesis.”
It’s also expensive — custom built from the latest materials, Daniel’s leg is a $50,000 project.
“The costs are very expensive,” his dad said. “There’s just no way around it.”
And though the Allen family’s insurance covered about 80 percent of the expense, the remaining $9,000 was still a substantial investment in a high school boy’s football dream.
But officials from Hanger were serious about their offer. So serious, in fact, that they waived the co-payment.
“It shocked us,” Tim Allen said. “It was an absolutely marvelous gift.”
A gift which Daniel received this past Thursday.
“Last Thursday was his first day of practice with his new leg,” his dad said. “He’s pretty excited.”
Daniel agreed — provided the new leg stays put.
“I want the ball — and only the ball — to go through the goal,” he said with a laugh.
Pragmatic, Daniel knows that he probably won’t initially start; but he does hope to play.
And, even better, he’s been accepted as a member of the team.
“The starting job, well that would be great,” he said. “But Andres (Charry), well, he kicks about 60 yards, so he’s pretty much the starter.”
Unless, Daniel jokes, Charry breaks his leg.
“Actually, Andres is a good friend. I was kinda’ nervous the first day, but after meeting him, well, we became friends. He’s really helped me out and I’m glad. He’s a great guy.”
Unless they were born on a farm, you probably won’t find too many teenagers awake at 5:30 a.m. on a summer day.
Not so with Daniel Allen.
“Daniel’s gonna’ do what he sets out to do,” his dad said. “Once he puts his mind to it, you are not gonna’ convince him otherwise.”
And for Daniel, those up-before-God practices are no big deal.
His focus in on getting better; on refining his kicking and earning a starting spot.
“I love football like no other sport,” he said “This is something I’ve always, always wanted to do.”
Fake leg or not, Daniel Allen will do whatever it takes to play.
“I’ve seen kickers who fall down instead of trying to make the tackle,” he said. “That’s not me. I’d try to take the other guy down. And if I can’t, I’ll throw my damn leg at him.”
Jokes aside, come Aug. 31 for Daniel’s parents and friends, it really doesn’t matter whether he plays or not.
Because in the stands they, along with Kyle Sherk, will be there to simply watch Daniel walk out on the field.
“Just seeing him walk on the football field will be a pretty interesting feeling for me,” Sherk said.
And one intense feeling for Daniel Allen.
MOORE — It’s 5:30 a.m.
This Week's Circulars
This Week's Circulars
Fran Dunagan, age 83, passed away July 29, 2020. She was born June 6, 2020 in Holdenville, OK. Survived by 6 children; 10 grandchildren; 11 great-great-grandchildren; and 1 brother. For full obituary visit irelandfuneralhome.com. (John Ireland Funeral Home, Moore, OK.)
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