"You're not gonna give up:" Inspiring wheelchair athlete sees disability as blessing

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Rugby is a rough sport played by tough athletes. But imagine having a disability and playing rugby in a wheelchair.

In the world of quad rugby, a sport that incorporates elements of wheelchair-basketball, ice hockey, handball and rugby union -- needless to say, it's a contact sport.

"You have be impaired with four limbs to play quad rugby. You can be an amputee on both arms and your legs," said Brian Muniz, quad rugby player.

The members of the Milwaukee Iron quad rugby team are among the fiercest competitors you'll ever see. And they'll never allow a disability to keep them on the sidelines.

"The higher you are the more impairment you have. The lower you go in your spinal chord, the more ability you have," said Muniz.

15 years ago, Brian Muniz was shot while defending himself during a car jacking. Somehow he sees it as a blessing.

"It sounds crazy, but really it was the best thing that happened to me. It just changed my life. From being a 25-year-old guy that really didn't give a darn about anybody, to somebody that really has to think about family and health and life and not take it for granted. So it's really opened my eyes, and only thing you can't do is stairs," said Muniz.

Muniz will be the first to tell you that it took time determination to get where he is today.

"It was tough. First days, first weeks in a hospital, you don't want to be measured for a wheelchair. I told them don't measure me, get outta here. I'm walking out of here. After awhile, the seriousness of it sticks with you. You come to a reality a little bit," Muniz said.

Then the former football player and boxer discovered quad rugby, it opened up a new world and lifted his spirits.

"Transferring the chairs, my mom picked me up and put me in the car -- after that first year, I'm driving, I'm doing everything myself. I'm dressing and it's just unbelievable to be able to have the opportunity to play a sport and be supposedly injured. It's just awesome," said Muniz.

In addition to opening up a new world, quad rugby has taken Brian Muniz all over the world. He's been to Brazil, India, and Switzerland.

"Without rugby in my life, I'd be in a situation where there's nothing to look forward to on Thursdays or Saturdays," Muniz said.

The main message of these players is smashing stereotypes one hit at a time.

If you ask Brian Muniz about being an inspiration, you'd better get out of the way! He's fine with that if it helps others -- but Muniz says he and his fellow competitors are just regular athletes who inspire themselves.

Still, he has a message for others facing challenges of any kind.

"Anybody going through a hard time you have to realize that it passes. It's like a wave, a wave can't go forever, a wave's gonna die too. So you're gonna go through some turbulent times, but it's gonna die and then it's gonna pass. You're not gonna give up. You're in Alaska you're gonna put a jacket on, right? You don't got legs you're gonna grab a wheelchair," said Muniz.

If you would like to find out more about the Milwaukee Iron Wheelchair Rugby program, CLICK HERE.