Thursday, September 5, 2019 || By Shanel Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Tim Bannon, 14, was born without arms, but that hasn’t stopped him from competing on the football field and in a triathlon. | Shanel Romain
Tim Bannon, a 14-year-old Proviso West High School freshman, doesn’t want or need your sympathy or stares or sentimental statements about how inspiring he is, although he knows that he’ll get those responses. And that’s OK. Tim’s going to do what he wants regardless of how people respond to him.
The Hillside teenager spent the latter part of his summer preparing for the Chicago Triathlon (that’s a roughly mile-long run, a 200-meter swim and around four miles of biking).
Now that school is in session, Bannon has his sights on other goals — literally. He’s looking to contribute on the football field for the Panthers as a kicker. Bannon, by the way, has no arms.
“My mom always says, ‘Normal is just a setting on the dryer,’ which is true,” Bannon said in between practicing kicks at Proviso West on Sept. 4.
Both Bannon and his mother Linda were born without arms due to a condition called Holt-Oram syndrome. What they lack in limbic ability, though, they make up for in courage and self-confidence.
“Being born without arms, from my perspective, hasn’t really affected my life that much, because it never really occurred to me growing up that I was that much different than anybody else,” Linda said during a video uploaded to YouTube in 2014 by Bancroft TV that has garnered more than 100 million views and 298,000 likes.
That was Tim’s first viral moment. His second viral moment happened this July, when video footage captured the young triathlete landing a 20-inch box jump. The video got the attention of media outlets everywhere — from Good Morning America to Fox News.
During practice on Sept. 4, a news crew for NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt was out on the Proviso West field. The segment aired on Sept. 5.
“I was kind of overwhelmed at first with all of the media,” Tim said. “Normally, it’s just because of my personal life. Now, it’s for something I accomplished.”
Richard Bannon, Tim’s father, said that his son’s most recent feat is all the more impressive, because its outside of his comfort zone.
Tim Bannon lines up for a practice field goal kick. | Shanel Romain
“He’s really achieved a lot over the summer,” Richard said. “I’m very proud of him for doing some things that are not quite comfortable for him. I’m very proud of him for that. We were asking him to do cross-country or something like that, which is more along the lines of the triathlon.”
“Physically, I feel overwhelmed out here with all these guys who weigh more than I do, are double my size,” said Tim, who is 5’4 and no more than 98 pounds. He said he considered playing soccer before his decision to join the football team. “I’m physically out of place, but mentally and socially these are my people.”
Thomas Mallard, Tim’s one-on-one who has assisted him for the last two years with his daily activities, said that he’s going to make sure that Tim contributes on the field.
“I came out here to make sure we get some kicks in,” said Mallard, himself a former athlete. “I told Tim, ‘Get that position.’ I really wanted him to go out for the kicker positions. This game builds courage. This is a hard game.”
Robert Isaac, the freshman football coach at West, said that he wasn’t surprised by Tim’s decision to play football. Isaac said that he knew Tim while working as a teacher at MacArthur Middle School in Berkeley.
Robert Isaac talks with Tim Bannon during practice. Right, Tim’s parents: Richard and Linda Bannon. | Shanel Romain
“I know Tim and his resilience and tenacity,” Isaac said. “I felt he’d be a perfect fit. He’s already encouraging his fellow teammates and is always full of energy and full of life. He stays positive. Oftentimes, that’s overlooked out here, because football is such an alpha male-dominated sport where you want to put down the opponent and put down the plays just to uplift yourself. Tim is always on the positive side of things and that keeps our guys motivated and smiling. It’s great to have him out here.” VFP
Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that MacArthur Middle School is in Berwyn. This article has since been updated. VFP regrets the error.
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