Shaker’s Strongest Athlete

Joseph Peregrim III

At first glance, Johnny Heinze is your typical student-athlete. The challenges he has overcome, however, are remarkable. 

Johnny was born with Nail Patella Syndrome, a trait he shares with his father and younger brother. Because of this condition, he has partial or even missing fingernails. When Johnny was born, his legs were backwards. Doctors could not fully align them. As a result, he is unable to walk in a fluid motion, an issue further complicated by deformed knees. Most visibly, though, is the deformity is his right elbow. A bone, surrounded by skin, protrudes from Johnny’s elbow. His range of motion is greatly reduced by this deformity. But Nail Patella Syndrome has not prevented Johnny from keeping busy with extracurricular activities. 

In fact, Johnny is currently the number one bowler on the varsity bowling team. With a 4-0 start, the team has already won more games this season than the entire season before. Johnny is not only participating, he is excelling. 

A love of sports fuels Johnny outside of the classroom. In addition to bowling, Johnny plays flag football, recreational basketball, and enjoys golfing. When I asked him if he considers himself an athlete, he responded with an enthusiastic “Hell Yeah!” 

As an avid sports fan, Johnny watches the Mets, Jets, and Knicks religiously. The joy Johnny received from watching his favorite teams on TV even inspired him to join the broadcasting club, where he started out as a sports reporter. It is through sports that Johnny has seen some of his greatest successes, but success often comes with devastating setbacks. 

Baseball is Johnny’s favorite sport. When he was younger, he loved playing his local baseball league. After accepting that he was slower than his teammates, and skinnier because it is hard for him to gain weight, Johnny was still forced to quit. A foot deformity prevented johnny wearing baseball cleats. A child that had acted so bravely was cheated by a technicality. 

 When Johnny discovered bowling, however, he realized that he felt minimal resistance from his body. Since the second grade, Johnny has been bowling without hindrance. Even after two knee surgeries and an extensive foot operation, his approach in bowling is not traditional. He walks stiffly toward the foul line, and seems to throw the ball rather than roll it. But it’s working. 

 Johnny has found a niche in bowling. His restricted arm movement prevents him from adjusting to lane conditions in conventional ways. Through years of experience, however, he has developed a method that cannot be taught by coaches. An average of over 200 pins is a testament to his success. With a future elbow surgery to come, the possibilities for Johnny’s bowling career are endless.