HOLLAND, Mich. -- Two West Ottawa football players formed a bond on and off the field after learning they share a unique experience. However, they say that experience also almost stopped them from playing the sport they love.
Seniors Shawn Trammel and Kyle Lantz share more than the football field; both of the young men had heart surgery as babies.
But they didn't let that stop them from playing football. The two have helped the Panthers make it to the playoffs two years in a row, working just as hard as everyone else on the team.
"They are two regular just average kids who walk the hallways here at West Ottawa high school. So if you didn't know their story previously neither one is going to use it as their crutch," says Varsity Coach Ryan Oshnock.
Trammel and Lantz’s stories include a life threatening medical history, and they have the matching scars right down the middle of their chests to prove it.
A fateful moment hitting the weights sparked a bond between the two, helping them through their high school careers.
"We were just in the weight room for football and we had our shirts off because it was hot and then we just saw each other's scars and we just talked about it," says Trammel.
"It was pretty cool being able to connect like that 'cause I haven't met a ton of people who've had heart surgery," says Lantz.
Trammel was born with a heart murmur, while Lantz was born with a rare heart defect in which the two main arteries of his heart were reversed.
Both went under the knife before the age of one.
"Early on they were told it would be kind of a miracle if I had a regular life," says Lantz.
"I'm just blessed for that, that I can still play football and do what I want to do, because some kids don't get that opportunity," says Trammel.
The two recovered and found their love of football, becoming teammates as West Ottawa Panthers. Their coach says the two have routine check ups with cardiologists, but that doesn't stop them on the field.
"The biggest thing is these kids don't want to be singled out as 'hey I'm the one who has a heart impairment,' or 'I had heart surgery' or something like that. They just want to be one of the guys," says Oshnock.
They never let their heart conditions define them, or their friendship.
"I have played football all my life and I have a scar on my chest and I don't even think about it anymore," says Trammel.
"It's awesome to have been able to play on the football team with a guy who shares a similar story to me and be able to just grow as teammates and friends," says Lantz.
Neither Trammel or Lantz plan on giving the pig skin up anytime soon. They both tell FOX 17 they plan to try out for their college football teams next year.