Enthusiasm in strong supply with St. James’ equipment manager, who lives with spina bifida

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SHAWNEE, Kan. -- The juice that Noah Kalny brings can't be measured. You have to feel it for yourself.

St. James Academy's football program (5-4) has a family element to their atmosphere that wins football games and warms hearts at the same time.

Kalny is one of 12 student equipment managers within the Thunder football huddle. Kalny, a senior at the private Catholic school, gives it his all, and doesn't let being born with a form of spina bifida stop him.

Noah has a special bond with his first cousin, starting left tackle Max Kalny.

"I love it so much," Noah Kalny said. "I love getting to be a part of the team and seeing each and every guy grow and become better football players."

"We've been at St. James together for the past four years. I like being with him. It's a lot of fun," Max Kalny said.

Spina bifida affects an estimated 166,000 Americans. In Noah's case, it affects the way his legs and knees work.

Max Kalny said he's seen the way Noah has adapted and learned to battle through limitations. Noah said he's been working as an equipment manager and waterboy for football teams for the past six seasons.

Spina bifida affects the way he walks, but not the way he thinks, studies or inspires others.

"I really appreciate being here with Noah, and Noah being here with me. Every single day at practice, he's always the biggest guy. He's always the most excited to be there," Max Kalny said.

"I`m lucky to be out here and in the shape I'm in. I don't want to take anything for granted. I want to go out there and do the best I can," Noah Kalny said.

"I`ve noticed through the years that passing and running, some of his mechanical movements, have gotten insanely better. Me and Noah can play pass. We can run and sprint," Max Kalny said Thursday.

"Everyone knows Noah would do anything to be out there with these guys," said Tom Radke, ninth-year Thunder coach. "He's giving these guys the business, and they'll give it back to him, too. He's been one of the guys since I've known him."

"I go at my own pace, and I just try to give it my all," Noah Kalny said.

His all is proving to be more than sufficient.

St. James Academy will need his boisterous enthusiasm on Friday night, when the Thunder meets St. Thomas Aquinas (10-0) in the Kansas Class 5A East playoffs.

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