Ability360 will represent Arizona in the NFL’s first Wheelchair Football League – along with teams in Chicago, Los Angeles and Kansas City – when the league officially launches during this weekend’s NFL Draft.
Organized by Disabled Sports USA with support from an NFL-Bob Woodruff Foundation Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant, each team will have a roster of 14 players.
“We are thrilled to be members of the inaugural Wheelchair Football League and to be able to bring another sports opportunity to athletes in Arizona,” said Gus LaZear, Vice President and General Manager of the Ability360 Sports and Fitness Center. “This is another tremendous example that individuals living with disabilities can pursue and participate in the sports they’ve always loved. And, we know there are incredibly talented athletes in our community chomping at the bit to be part of the team.”
Ability360 Program Coordinator Nick Pryor will be the team’s player-coach.
The league’s 7-on-7 games will be played on hard surfaces both indoors and outside, on fields measuring 60-yards long and 22-yeards wide. Players will be selected through tryouts which will be scheduled when coronavirus pandemic restrictions are lifted later this year. Each roster will be balanced through a weighting system based on a player’s ability, similar to what is used for wheelchair rugby.
The wheelchair football game will operate using football basics adapted for the wheelchair game. With no kickoffs or punts, the ball will be thrown rather than kicked. A “tackle” occurs with a one-hand touch above the waist. For conversions, a run is worth one point and a pass adds two points to the score.
Using specialized adapted wheelchairs, players must remain fully seated during play.
The first tournament is tentatively scheduled in August at a location to be announced, with a second tournament in October to be played in Chicago.
To launch the league this weekend, the NFL has selected retired U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sargent Brad Lang to represent DSUSA by helping to announce a draft pick for his beloved Carolina Panthers. Lang, a Purple Heart recipient, lost both of his legs to an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan in 2001.
Ability360 continues a tradition of empowering programs for people with all disabilities. Ability360 offers and promotes programs to empower people with disabilities to take personal responsibility so that they may achieve or continue independent lifestyles within the community. The independent living philosophy states that people with disabilities should have the same civil rights, options, and control over choices in their own lives as do people without disabilities. Ability360 is located at 5025 E. Washington St. Ste. 200, Phoenix, AZ 85034, , 602-256-2245.
The Ability360 Sports and Fitness Center is a 45,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility located in Phoenix, Arizona. Owned and operated by Ability360, the Sports & Fitness Center offers a wide variety of amenities to help you achieve your health and fitness goals including a fitness center with wheelchair accessible weight machines, an aquatic area equipped with lifts and elevators, accessible locker rooms, and more.