Auburn, AL (WSFA) - Tennis is one of those sports where you're always moving. You have to be quick on your feet. Now imagine trying to play this game without the use of your legs. For Auburn student Jared Rehm, that's all he's ever known, and he has no complaints. "I was born with spina bifida, it's a separation of the vertebrae in the spinal column," Rehm said. "When I was 13 I discovered wheelchair sports and that it was something I could compete in."
Too slow? Not anymore! As a kid Jared tried to keep up with all the others, but now with a level playing field, he's tough to beat. "He's just like any other athlete," said Nathan Waters who is the coordinator for the University's adaptive athletics program. "Just like any other athlete, we practice everyday. At first it was amazing to see him play, now we're just trying to play tennis."
There's one difference in wheelchair tennis. You can let the ball bounce twice before you hit it. The wheelchairs are high tech with a back wheel so you can't flip and different angle to the wheels to make it easier to move and turn.
Jared Rehm grew up in south Alabama. He's a lifelong Auburn Tiger fan. His spina bifida could have kept him from competing for his favorite university. But Jared says, ironically, the chair might be the only reason he's getting a chance to compete for the blue and orange. "I probably wouldn't have been able to compete at the collegiate level if it weren't for my disability," Rehm said.
Jared knows people stare and do a double take when they pass him playing on the court. And for him that's fine. He just hopes people don't focus on the wheels, but the man with the racket hitting tough shots all over the court. "It's cool people see me as inspiring, but I really want them to see me as an athlete who works his butt off."