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Shrine Bowl special for Gruhot

A trip to the Shrine Hospital in the Twin Cities is an annual part of the experience of the North Dakota Shrine Bowl football players. This year's trip Wednesday may have been an eye-opener to some of Kolby Gruhot's teammates. But not to Gruhot. ...

A trip to the Shrine Hospital in the Twin Cities is an annual part of the experience of the North Dakota Shrine Bowl football players.

This year's trip Wednesday may have been an eye-opener to some of Kolby Gruhot's teammates. But not to Gruhot.

"When we got there, there were a couple of little kids walking around with big smiles on their faces," the Stephen-Argyle High School graduate said. "Even though they're disabled, those kids still enjoy life.

"I hope it showed the guys that if they're having some problem, there is always something that could be worse. I know I consider myself lucky."

Gruhot didn't need to make the trip Wednesday to understand the Shrine Hospital experience. He's lived that experience most of his life. Gruhot has been a football standout despite playing with a prosthetic leg.

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An accident involving a lawn mower when he was 3 years old left Gruhot with a left leg that was amputated just below the knee. Ever since, he's been a regular at the Shrine Hospital in the Twin Cities, making trips there every six months for checkups and getting new prosthetic legs there about once a year.

Lucky?

The injury hasn't slowed Gruhot. He was a three-year starting lineman at Stephen-Argyle, a standout on Storm teams that were unbeaten, Minnesota 9-man state football champions in each of those seasons. Gruhot earned 9-man all-state honors as a junior and senior. He also was a regular playing basketball.

"I've been there (to the Shrine Hospital) a lot," Gruhot said. "I see kids in wheelchairs, who can't walk, who can't see, who can't hear. I've been able to play sports. I get around really well.

"The doctors there have been with me all the way. They've solved any problems I've had with my leg. (The hospital) got me where I am today."

Gruhot also said his care at the Shrine Hospital has been at no expense to his family.

In the Shrine Bowl, he's a rarity.

Former Grand Forks Central coach Mike Berg has been involved with the Shrine Bowl for 20 years, as a coach and a director. He's seen approximately 1,900 athletes play in the Shrine games in that span. In those 20 years, he can't remember another player who also has been a longtime patient at the Shrine Hospital.

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"It's quite an exceptional thing," Berg said. "And you watch him play -- that (prosthetic leg) doesn't define the kid. And I don't think he'd want it to. He's here because he's an outstanding football player.

"He's just a fine athlete. And that's the message that the Shriners send, that they'll do their best to make kids whole."

Gruhot got the message. He doesn't consider himself handicapped; he doesn't consider himself different from other football players and teenagers.

Gruhot has signed a letter of intent to play college football at the University of Minnesota-Crookston. But Saturday's Shrine Bowl gave him an opportunity to make a payback for what the Shriners have meant to him.

"It's a really good cause," he said. "I know what kind of work they do. I feel really lucky, glad that I got the opportunity to play in this game.

"After all is said and done, I'm one of the guys who have benefited from this game."

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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