Eric Yutzy/Eyewitness News
Indianapolis - Sometimes the biggest lessons about perseverance can be learned from some of the smallest packages. Ten-year-old Phil Cross Jr. is coping with a handicap by using football to help him put his best foot forward.
Playing on the same field as his football heroes at the Colts training complex, in the title game, the biggest contest of his young life, Cross has all the makings of a champion. He's not the fastest kid on the team, that's Dean Tate. He's not the biggest, either, that would be Mike Collins.
"Heart. You can't teach heart. Kids got more heart than the majority of kids out here," said PAL football coach Darryl Harvey.
"Inspiration. I encourage people to make them hit harder and run faster, that kind of stuff," Cross said.
Without Cross' encouragement, the team might be in pieces. Without the team, Cross' piece might have kept him discouraged.
A year ago, Cross was playing on a moving train in downtown Indianapolis. The endgame was to hang on for as long as possible. The game ended when Cross fell off, his leg got caught and his left foot was severed.
His mother, Arlene Sanders, happened to be the first to the scene and the first to hear the doctor's grim diagnosis.
"They wouldn't be able to save his foot and then I really lost it. I thought that was the end. I just prayed harder," Sanders said. "And then I saw him and he looked okay."
It didn't take Cross long at all to get his mind back to football.
"I think the day he woke up. He was already talking about playing again and he was going to need his foot back," said Cross' father, Phil Cross Sr.
And you better believe, just after his prosthetic arrived, "Dad, hey, we gonna do this? Dad, c'mon, you said...dad, dad, dad."
But he quickly learned playing with the prosthetic was going to be tough.
"I though it was easy at first. Then I found out it was going to be hard. Real hard," the boy said.
As hard as learning to walk again, learning to run again, as hard as learning to play again. Flying fearlessly on his prosthetic leg, Cross battled on the offensive line in the championship game. But it was the other team, the Colts, that sprinted to a 7-0 victory and a championship.
"He didn't lose anything. He didn't lose anything. He's still a winner," Sanders said.
Cross received more than just a runner-up trophy. He was honored by a real Colt, Devin Moore, with a new pair of cleats. Ones he can grow into one foot at a time, one step at a time.
"Never give up and keep going. There's a whole bunch of stuff you never know until you try it," Cross said.
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