Armless archer Matt Stutzman hits the bull's eye when it comes to figuring out adversity

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.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 18, 2014 at 9:28 am •  Published: June 7, 2013

photo - Matt Stutzman, known as the Armless Archer uses his feet to take aim as he prepares to take part in the archery event during the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Edmond, Okla.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Matt Stutzman, known as the Armless Archer uses his feet to take aim as he prepares to take part in the archery event during the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Edmond, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

“If I sneeze or yawn,” Stutzman said, “I'm done.”

He laughed.

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.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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