FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Alex Ried is never the attention-seeking one, never looking for a handout, nor has he ever sought sympathy for his condition. But true to his Fall River roots, he’s never one to mince his words, either.
“Not gonna lie, I mean, this is definitely cool – it’s Gillette Stadium,” the recent Durfee High graduate smiled as he walked off the field at Gillette Stadium, where he had just been presented as the King at halftime of this year’s annual North-South football game.
Ried, a long-time patient of Shriners Hospital in Springfield, was born with Fibular Hemmimelia in his left leg, a rare birth defect estimated to affect one in 10,000 babies, in which the fibula is either shortened at birth or completely absent. In Ried’s case, it was the latter, leaving him with a dramatically shorter left leg, in addition to having just three toes on his left foot. At nine months, when he first began showing signs he could walk, Ried had his left leg amputated, with the heel pad of the foot on the end, and fitted for his first prosthetic.
Seventeen years later, that’s affected Ried on the gymnasium floor seemingly as much as a rainstorm. Never once has he been made to feel out of place. Instead, he has embraced it.
If it weren’t for the fact Ried was wearing shorts, though, one would hardly have noticed the difference. But tonight, Ried stopped for plenty of pictures on the sidelines, and was given a good ovation from the crowd.
Over the last several months, Ried has been the subject of a handful of newspaper articles and television features, and was close to flying out to California to be the subject of a national ad for Shriners (the plans were scratched at the last minute).
“Yeah, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was pretty cool,” he smiled.
All of it praising his ability to be – well, normal.
Active in both soccer and basketball, Ried was a captain for Durfee’s basketball team this past winter, and developed a reputation as one of the team’s best shooters and defenders. As injuries took toll, Ried got more action, finally making his first start in late January against Randolph High. And true to his nature, the opposition barely noticed what the big deal was.
“Half of these players think I’m handicapped and I can’t even walk,” he cracked. “Then I get on the basketball court and they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re not that bad’.”
Recalling the game a few weeks later, Randolph head coach Kalon Jenkins was brutally honest.
“The greatest tribute to him is the guy who coached against him – who may be the most oblivious person in the world now – had no idea,” he said with a laugh. “Whatever he did in that game was meaningful enough that he blended in like all the other players on the floor.”
Outside of the classroom, Ried was Treasurer of his senior class, and also spoke in City Hall in support of a public works project that would bring a slew of new jobs to an area depressed by unemployment. This fall, Ried will enroll at UMass Amherst, where he plans to major in history.
Fall River tends to pride itself on its official motto: “We’ll Try.” Ried certainly gets that.