Beyond the Game: High school weightlifting program transforms special needs students

In a small northeast Arkansas town like Trumann, it can be especially difficult to raise kids with special needs. One unassuming teacher is working hard to change that.

Eddie Morgan, a special education teacher and bus driver, spends his afternoons teaching kids to lift weights. What may sound like a simple extracurricular activity has made an immense impact on his students with special needs.

He started the program six years ago. He currently has 14 kids on the team.

"A lot of the kids that are in special 'ed,' they don't compete in regular sports," Morgan said.

"A lot of people in special 'ed,' they don't feel like they can do anything. They have no goals. I tell them, did you know you can set a state record? [They say] are you kidding?"

Morgan's unique ability to work with the students results in a tremendous amount of growth, both physically and mentally.

"It's very fulfilling," he said.

He's a former weightlifter himself. The West Memphis native played football at Arkansas State. The New York Giants drafted him in the 15th round of the 1976 NFL Draft.

"I tell them that no matter what you say or do, if you want to do something, if you work hard enough, you can do it."

In addition to a training program, seeing there was no alternative to the Special Olympics, Morgan created a weightlifting competition. This weekend in Jonesboro, all 14 of his special needs students won first place medals in their respective divisions.

Perhaps most amazing is the win by Danny Webb. Doctors had to remove 75 percent of his brain when he was younger, which affects his IQ and ability to walk. After spending time lifting weights, he's gained more than muscle.

"You get more stronger and you want to do more everyday," Webb said. "It changed my whole life."

Morgan's program, therefore, helps special needs students lift more than weights. It lifts spirits.

"I know that if I can do it, even you can do it," Morgan said.

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