Posted at: 10/16/2013 10:46 PM
Updated at: 10/16/2013 10:59 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
There's a unique football team on the Iron Range. No helmets, no pads, just teamwork.
The Mesabi Thunder play unified flag football as part of Special Olympics. On their gridiron, everyone is on an even playing field.
"It's pretty interesting actually. we go against different teams and stuff," said James Montgomery, a Mesabi Thunder player. "It's good. It's kind of nice to hang out and meet people, get to know everybody, all the fun things you get to do."
Barb Johnson coaches the team, teaching them the basics of the game, but says she's learned a lot from them too.
"This is very rewarding. Working with these people with intellectual disabilities has been just amazing," Johnson said. "The smiles, the happiness, the high fives, it's just you can't compare it to anything really."
Amy Rowe is new to the Mesabi Thunder and says she was welcomed with open arms.
"When I moved up here I didn't have any friends, and my dad got me into Special Olympics," Rowe said. "I just like being in sports. I wanted to join because I have disabilities and I wanted to be on a team that accepted me for who I was."
Last week, the Thunder practiced hard to get ready for the state tournament in St. Paul.
"That's the biggest highlight for them all year long is taking this trip," Johnson said.
The Thunder won their division at state. But they are quick to tell you the real victory is just having a chance to play.
"It's just getting there that's a reward," Johnson said.
"It doesn't matter about winning," Rowe said. "It only matters about having fun."