WICKENBURG — Most days, usually just after 3, the man in the wide-brimmed straw hat can be seen with no arms or legs around town, driving his wheelchair to Wickenburg High School’s soccer practice.
Carter Crosland, 37, who lives across town, takes 30 to 45 minutes to get there and join head coach Ishmael MacNeil’s team as defensive assistant. Earlier in the summer he would be picked up by his cousin Carson Hone, a defense attorney on the team, who would put Crosland’s chair in the back of his truck.
But now that school is at school, Hone can’t pick him up, so Crosland has to come to school alone to practice.
He never misses.
It’s 103 degrees that day and feels hotter as the sun sets with higher-than-usual humidity, but Crosland didn’t complain about the trek through town.
“I’ll probably drive home after practice is over,” Crosland said. “It will take another half hour to get there. But that’s okay. It’s nice when it starts to cool down.
“I try not to make excuses. If I come here alone, they can come here too.”
Crosland was born in Utah without arms or legs, so it’s “normal” for him to get around in a motorized chair. His iPhone sits on his left shoulder and a touchpad is near his other right shoulder that controls his wheelchair.
“I think I’d rather have it that way,” Crosland said. “I don’t know any different, so I don’t know what it’s like to have arms and legs. That’s normal for me. I have a cousin who lost both legs, one below the knee and the other above the knee. Some of the things he went through, I’m glad I didn’t go through that.
“Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I had arms and legs. But it doesn’t do me any good to think about it. I can’t change it, so I might as well make the best of it anyway.”
Crosland lives a productive life with his wife, who babysits MacNeil’s children by day.
He owns his house. He works from home as a landscape architect for a national company. His move from central Utah to Wickenburg was prompted by his family, his familiarity with the state, and his desire to escape the cold winters. He had lived in Chandler for a few years before returning to Utah.
He moved to Wickenburg last year knowing he would get help as his aunt and uncle live there and his grandparents spend the winter there. It was too late to join the high school team, so he helped out when he was young.
“I used to come here to see her a lot,” Crosland said. “When COVID struck (in 2020) and I started working full time from home, it was time to come back to Arizona because I don’t like snow. Get away from the snow and life is good.”
Inspired by his high school football coach, who made him an honorary member of the team, Crosland had coached at the youth, high school, and collegiate levels in Utah, even semi-professionally.
“The coach I had was great and I loved football,” said Crosland, who graduated from Southern Utah.
Crosland spends hours disassembling films. He provides insights that the head coach may not see.
When MacNeil was promoted from assistant coach to succeeding Mike Mitchell in June, MacNeil hired Crosland as an assistant, impressed by his ability to get around town in his chair and his desire to be a coach.
“The kids know he’ll always be here,” MacNeil said. “He’s making this sacrifice to get here no matter what. It’s scorching hot in that chair right now. But he comes here every day.”
Crosland has become an inspiration at Wickenburg, including for his cousins Carter and Jaxson Hone. Carter is a junior and Jaxson, a backup quarterback, is a sophomore.
“I see him driving that thing all over town,” Jaxson said. “He has the willpower to do that in a wheelchair.
“Coming here every day even though he doesn’t have to is amazing. He wants to be exactly how everyone is treated here.”
Carson grew up around a man of struggle and no excuses to get in the way of what he set out to do.
“He wrestled with us when we were little kids on the trampoline,” Carson Hone said. “I saw him kick my little brother’s butt.”
Crosland doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him.
“I’ve never heard him say, ‘I can’t do anything,'” said Carson Hone.
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That’s the mindset he’s adopted every day of his life growing up in Fillmore, Utah, a town smaller than Wickenburg and learned from his grandfather, who was a Utah all-state running back and two-time wrestling champion.
“Everyone does it, so I might as well,” he said.
It wasn’t a frustration that he couldn’t be on the field with everyone else during games.
“I think there would have been if I hadn’t been included the way I was,” he said. “But I’ve never felt like this. I was also able to referee a few games in my senior year. So that was cool.”
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A communications major, he wanted to be a broadcaster and called in a few plays on the radio. He had his own sports show. But his future brother-in-law, a car salesman, sold a car to a local high school football coach. This is how he came to coaching during his studies. He convinced him to change his major to history.
He describes himself as a film junkie. He said he would like to be a head coach one day. But he says he’s not ready yet.
“I just want the players to know that it doesn’t matter if you come from a small school,” Crosland said. “Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own problems to deal with. I’m just trying to be a motivator. Try to let her know that if she wants to do it, regardless of her background or history, she will know.
“There is nothing stopping them but themselves.”
Nothing ever stopped Croland.
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