Marcus Brockman looked like every other 15-year-old on last year's Cottonwood sophomore basketball team.
At 6-foot-8, he held his own under the basket, but he labored in transition.
His mother, Michelle, saw her son's dream of playing collegiate sports and the obvious pain of a bad left hip on a collision course.
"When I was 3, my parents noticed a limp while jumping on a trampoline," Marcus Brockman said. "We went to a bunch of different doctors, and finally a chiropractor referred us to St. Mark's Hospital."
St. Mark's referred the Brockmans to Shriners Hospital for Children, where a degenerative disease of the hip socket, Perthes disease, was diagnosed.
"My first thought was he's not going to be able to walk," Michelle said.
An initial surgery was scheduled, where both legs were casted with the intent of improving the toddler's range of motion.
It did not have the anticipated effect, and one year later, 4-year-old Marcus underwent a more invasive surgery in which a metal plate secured with 6-inch screws was used to realign the femur in his left leg.
Doctors say the X-ray of Marcus Brockman's left hip looks like that of a 70-year-old man, so the pain that only Michelle and Greg Brockman could see on their son's face last year brought back memories of the day their then-4-year-old son started burying the pain.
Marcus was in Shriners Hospital around Halloween when he was 4, and he saw the other children go outside. When he asked if he could go out and was told no, he launched his hand-held pain-medication-dispensing device against the wall.
"Hospital staff came to a compromise and promised him he could go outside if he went without pain medication for four hours," his mother said.
Marcus went outside that day, and he has been swallowing the pain ever since. After giving up baseball, then football, he figured his days of competitive sports were over.
"When I was younger, I thought I could push through and play," he said. "The pain was always there, and it wasn't getting any better."
He devoted himself to his studies at the Academy of Math, Engineering and Science. He fell into the lap of his next athletic endeavor through a curious twist of fate.
"My family and I did plays when I was younger, and we met a DJ who turned out to be one of the coordinators at the Adaptive Recreation Center," said Marcus, who started working as a backup DJ at the center his sophomore year.
Center director Jeff Burley noticed Marcus shuffling down the hall with a slight limp while working one day this summer.
"I noticed he had an odd gait, and he told me his story of having to give up sports," Burley said.
Burley informed the teen that his hip qualified as a disability, and he could join the wheelchair basketball team if he liked.
Marcus went home that night with a bounce to his step.
His parents were skeptical upon hearing the news.
"But you can walk," Michelle Brockman said.
But after learning that the hip qualified as a lower-leg disability, she knew it was the perfect fit.
"Oh my God, this is so beautiful for you," she said.
Marcus' dream of playing collegiate sports is reborn.
"I could play at Illinois or Alabama or Whitewater," he said. "They're all great schools, now I just have to get there."
About Marcus Brockman
Marcus Brockman, a 16-year old student at the Academy of Math, Engineering and Science, has Perthes disease in his left hip. Perthes disease is a degenerative condition in which the rounded head of the femur (the "ball" of the "ball and socket" joint of the hip) dies.
Brockman's father, Greg, said his son doesn't do anything halfway. After his first surgery at age 3, Greg Brockman challenged his son to walk to 7-Eleven with him for a Slurpee. He struggled, but he made it. No word on what flavor was dispensed.
When Brockman quits growing, at age 18 or 19, he will get a prosthetic hip. Doctors said he can't get the joint replaced until he reaches his full height. They encouraged the family to wait as long as possible, because a patient can only have a hip replaced so many times in a lifetime.