Heritage Hills senior with amputated leg defies odds on the football field

Heritage Hills senior with amputated leg defies odds on the football field
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 8:22 PM CDT
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LINCOLN CITY, Ind. (WFIE) - September 18 was a normal Saturday. After a football game the night before, 17-year-old Blake Duttlinger was working on the farm with his family.

Harvest season had just gotten underway, and Blake was left alone with some other family while his dad, Ben, stepped out.

“About 45 minutes after I left the field is when I get a phone call from Bill that there was something that was wrong and I needed to get there as soon as I could,” says Ben.

Blake’s mom, Valerie, got a similar call.

“Kind of in a panic I run out the door, but before I run out the door, I grabbed a couple of bath towels, not having a clue what I would find,” says Valerie.

What she found was her son, Blake, pinned under a combine.

It was an accident, a simple misstep in a motion he’d done a hundred times.

“I’m walking up, I’ve got corn in my hand, and I’m about to throw it in,” says Blake. “I trip on a cornstalk, put this leg forward to catch myself so I don’t faceplant, and one of the gathering chains, which is what brings the cornstalk into the corn head. It grabbed onto my pant leg and pulled me in.”

First responders got him out of the combine and into the hospital. After a few days of surgeries and monitoring, Blake, his family and doctors all decided the right choice was to amputate below the knee.

“One of the first things I said to Papaw when he got out of the combine was, ‘I don’t want to lose my leg,’” says Blake, “At that point in time, you know it’s gonna get better, but you don’t see it getting better anytime soon.”

He waited over a month, and then he got his new prosthetic.

“The first time I think I stepped into a prosthetic, it was a test socket, and I think I cried, like tears of joy,” says Blake.

Then it was back to the grindstone.

Blake had a wrestling season to get back to.

Originally wrestling in the 138-pound weight class, he got back on the mat for a junior varsity tournament, wrestling in the 113-pound weight class.

“I had it in my mind that I was probably going to lose, but I didn’t want to lose,” says Blake.

His first match ended in a win, followed by another win, and the successes kept coming.

Blake continued working out, doing therapy, going to camps, meeting other amputees, and working his way up to what he calls a new toy – his specially made blade for football season.

Heritage Hills head football coach Todd Wilkerson welcomed 14 News into a football team workout. Wilkerson says he can’t believe the work ethic and progress Blake has shown.

“From Blake’s perspective, he wasn’t doing enough, and I had to get him to really look at the perspective of the rest of us, who think he’s doing a tremendous amount of work,” says Wilkerson.

For Blake, with his history of farming and playing sports, pushing through pain is all he knows.

“Obviously it’s never gonna be the same, but as close as I can get, I feel like I’m 80% there,” says Blake.

In the first home game of his senior season last Friday, Blake led the Heritage Hills team onto the field, running full speed once again.