EDMOND — Matt Stutzman places the arrow in his bow and raises the bow from the ground. He pushes the bow away from his body, stares down the bull's eye, then releases the arrow.
When it pierces the center of the target, Stutzman doesn't throw his arms in the air in celebration.
He has no arms.
Stutzman is known as the Armless Archer, and he is the reigning Paralympic silver medalist in compound bow. Friday at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, he was in second place. The final round of shooting is Saturday.
Anywhere you turn at the Endeavor Games — a multi-sport event for athletes with all sorts of physical disabilities — you find inspirational stories.
None is more inspiring than Stutzman's.
Born without arms, Matt's parents put him up for adoption when he was four months old. Nine months later, Leon and Jean Stutzman walked into a nursery where Matt was with about 20 other children.
“I'm the only one with no arms,” Matt said. “And they picked me.”
“On their resume, they said they wanted no one with a mental disability or a physical disability just because they didn't know how they were going to be able to handle it. But yet, they still got me.”
Stutzman, who grew up in rural Iowa, got his first bow and arrow when he was in high school, but it got stolen a few months later. He never had a chance to figure out how he could shoot it, and with eight children in the house, his parents didn't have the money to buy him another one.
About three years ago, Stutzman bought himself a bow. He wanted to use it to hunt, not only because many men in his family do but also because his wife and three boys needed the food.
“Finding jobs in the town I was in was pretty hard for me,” Stutzman said matter of factly. “If I shot a deer, that would last us most of the winter.”
Stutzman worked for about two months figuring out how to shoot.
He has a belt that goes around his chest. A mechanical release is on a loop on the belt, and it hooks around his right shoulder.
Using his teeth, he puts the arrow into the mechanical release.
Then with the bow wedged between the big toe and second toe on his right foot, he straightens his leg to pull the bow taught. The mechanical release sits just underneath his jaw.
Once he looks down the sight at his target and steadies the bow against his mouth, he moves his jaw ever so slightly. Pressure equal to that of a mouse click sets off the mechanical release.
“If I sneeze or yawn,” Stutzman said, “I'm done.”
But he is intensely proud of the fact that nothing about his set up is specially made for him. Nothing is modified. Everything is stock.
“Even my bow is a regular bow,” Stutzman said. “I have the stabilizer set up different than most people, but it's still the same bow that everybody else would shoot.”
Stutzman grew up in a world where things were never customized for him. The federal government wanted to give his parents $500 or $600 a month to modify their home when Matt was young.
Leon and Jean said no.
“They were strong believers in teaching me that I didn't need that kind of stuff,” Matt said. “If I needed to learn how to write ... they would say, ‘OK, let's figure it out.'
“Because they did that, I can adapt to anything.”
Stutzman, for example, doesn't need any special devices to get dressed.
Stop and think about how you got dressed this morning. Then think about doing it without your arms.
“I figured it out,” Stutzman said. “I figured out how to drive a car. I figured out how to eat. I figured out all that stuff.”
Figuring out how to shoot a bow and arrow has been a boon for his family. It wasn't so long ago that he and wife, Amber, were living paycheck to paycheck. Providing for their three boys was a struggle. But since making his first U.S. Paralympic team and going to London last year, Stutzman no longer collects disability; he makes too much money from product endorsements and speaking engagements to qualify.
“It's enough to where it takes care of my family,” he said. “I don't have to wonder where the next bill's being paid.
“That feels great.”
Stutzman wants to be a good role model for his sons. He has never shied away from anything because he has no arms. He even changed diapers on all three of his boys, laying them on the floor and using his feet.
Stutzman is so independent that his 7-year-old, Carter, was oblivious to the fact that his dad didn't have arms until one of his buddies at school pointed it out.
“Why doesn't your dad have any arms?” the buddy asked.
“He does have arms,” Carter insisted.
Sometimes, Matt Stutzman will catch his boys trying to do things with their feet instead of their hands.
They're just trying to be like daddy.