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The Good Stuff: Goal Line Stand

Two players, two incredible dreams
6-year-old Montrale Collins played flag football for the first time this past fall.
6-year-old Montrale Collins played flag football for the first time this past fall.(KSLA)
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 9:55 AM CST
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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - James Thurman is no stranger to coaching.

He’s coached high school football and basketball players for years. In the fall of 2021, he coached his son in flag football in Bossier City’s new Football ‘N’ America league created for longtime Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

“I was more nervous coaching little kids for the first time,” smiled Coach Thurman as his group of 6, 7, and 8 year old prepared for one of the weekend flag football games.

His youngest player, Montrale Collins, has waited six long years for a chance to play the game of football, according to his mother Ieshia Player.

“I’ve always taught him, there are no limits. You can do whatever you put your mind to,” said Ieshia, referencing the fact her son plays on two prosthetic legs. “He was born with the total absence of a tibia bone in one leg, and a partial tibia in the other.”

However, it didn’t keep Montrale from teaching himself how to turn cartwheels and from playing tackle football with family members in his front yard before his mother finally signed him up for the FNA league.

During warmups before his game at Freedom Fields, and once during his game, one of his legs fell off; however, it’s no big thing — he just popped it back in.

Regardless of Montrale’s ease with fitting right in with the other players, before the season started, Ieshia was still concerned how welcomed he would be. So she texted his coach to make sure he was aware of Montrale’s unique medical situation.

6-year-old Montrale Collins loves football, and the Saints.
6-year-old Montrale Collins loves football, and the Saints.(KSLA)

She was very surprised by Coach Thurman’s response:

“He said everything is going to be alright because I have a boy on my high school team and he’s been great,” shared Ieshia.

How remarkable that one coach was gifted with two players, both living out incredible childhood dreams, to play football.

“God had a hand in that,” said Coach Thurman who is the head coach of the Glenbrook High School boys basketball team and an assistant coach with the Apaches’ football team.

Fifteen-year-old Ayden Rose first stepped on the Glenbrook gym floor a year ago determined to make the junior varsity basketball team as an 8th grader — and he did.

”He works hard and his hustle is off the charts,” commented Coach Thurman on Ayden’s play on the basketball court.

As Ayden works to improve his game on the hardwood, he said he was ready to pursue dream number two.

“I wanted to try a new thing,” said Ayden who remembers the day he walked right up to head football coach David Feaster and asked him about trying out. “He was talking to me about football and I said, ‘That’s a terrible idea’.”

Coach made it clear, he never doubted the will in Ayden’s heart, but was just concerned for his safety on a hard-hitting high school football field. So was Ayden’s father.

Ayden Rose plays for the Glenbrook football and basketball teams.
Ayden Rose plays for the Glenbrook football and basketball teams.(Nathan Mills)

“Of course, as parents, you do worry,” Ayden’s father Nathan Mills admitted as he opened up about how Ayden lost his right foot in an accident when he was only 3-years-old.

“August 4th, 2010, he was with his grandparents and his little cousin when they let him outside in the backyard,” Nathan painfully remembered, explaining how Ayden was injured.

He said Ayden slipped and fell down while a family member was backing up a riding lawnmower. That family member had no idea the children had come outside.

“He slipped and couldn’t get up in time,” Nathan said.

“It would be nice to prove to people my prosthetic isn’t a restriction at all,” explained Ayden, part of the reason why he decided to try out for the Apache football team.

Not only did Ayden make the team, playing on JV most of the season, but he suited up and played in a number of the school’s varsity games.

“I don’t know if you can put it into words, a Dad seeing your son go in the game for the first time,” gleamed Nathan. “It was pure joy.”

It was a joy topped by then watching Ayden make his first official tackle just seconds after coming into his first varsity football game.

“Then you hear his name get called, and I’m pretty sure I levitated a little bit as a father, you know,” continued Nathan.

Ayden, now a freshman in high school, went on to make a number of varsity tackles by season’s end while unknowingly paving the way for the next great defender, Montrale, to live out his dream.

Montrale Collins and Ayden Rose recently met for the first time, by chance, at Shriner's...
Montrale Collins and Ayden Rose recently met for the first time, by chance, at Shriner's Hospital.(Nathan Mills)

“I’m so glad that somebody allowed their son to do what he loves to do,” a thankful Ieshia shared, acknowledging Ayden’s desire to live out his dream has indirectly led to her son’s success on the flag football field.

“I know he was going to be in good hands.”

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