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A 20/20 Outlook On Life

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A young Echohawk running for the Sand Springs track and field team. He would later join the track and field team at Oklahoma State University. A young Echohawk running for the Sand Springs track and field team. He would later join the track and field team at Oklahoma State University.
Echohawk (left) pictured with Sand Springs native and former Oklahoma player and head coach John Blake (middle) and former OU Head Coach Barry Switzer (right). Echohawk (left) pictured with Sand Springs native and former Oklahoma player and head coach John Blake (middle) and former OU Head Coach Barry Switzer (right).
Rodney's sister, Lisa, often gives him rides to sporting events. Rodney's sister, Lisa, often gives him rides to sporting events.
Echohawk in his office at the Sand Springs Leader. Echohawk in his office at the Sand Springs Leader.
Echohawk on the field taking pictures while the Sandites were in the OSAA baseball playoffs. Echohawk on the field taking pictures while the Sandites were in the OSAA baseball playoffs.

By Kyle Dierking, NewsOn6.com

SAND SPRINGS, OK -- There's a bit of a story to the boy in the black and white photo.  A tenderfoot track athlete and a mind painting the perfect portrait, better than the black and white photo could ever tell.

"I got into the starting blocks, ran seven steps to the first hurdle, led with my left leg and five steps between each hurdle," said Rodney Echohawk.  "I said, ‘coach, I can see once I'm up on them and I know exactly how many steps to take.  There's more than one way to do something."

He's a man who sees no barriers because he barely sees anything.  Echohawk has been legally blind since birth.

"Everybody has difficulties and things that stand in their way of accomplishing what they want," Echohawk said. "Some people call them handicaps, but I prefer to call them challenges."

He's taken on plenty in his lifetime. Beginning as a boy from his Widow's Colony home in Sand Springs, watching the 1968 Olympics.

"I was a tubby little fat kid," Echohawk said.  "I was so inspired by the Olympic games in Mexico City that I literally started running completely on my own."

His motor hasn't stopped moving. Rodney started the sports section at the Sand Springs Leader in 1980. He branched out and had his byline in a few other papers. Now he's back home as sports editor, telling stories of generations of Sandites.

"I'm waiting for my crop of grandkids to come in," Echohawk laughed.  "To be able to write about the Sandites - the black and gold - is more than an opportunity, it's a privilege."

To imagine what Rodney sees without glasses only begins to describe the true depth of his determination.

"It looks like a pane of glass that's completely fogged over," Echohawk said. "You see lights and darks but not much else."

What he lacks in vision he makes up for in versatility. You'll often find him on the field photographing - snapping the perfect picture for the sports section.

"Someone once said, ‘you have pictures that turn out pretty good, how do you do that with your eyes? Don't you take some bad ones?' Well yeah but you don't print those," Echohawk laughed.

His best view is hardly from the box seats. Instead, Rodney prefers to be perched at the top of bleachers with a pair of binoculars. That helps him see the action better. So does his sister, Lisa. She gives him rides to games and is by his side at most sporting events.

"I've had to make a lot of adjustments to accomplish the same thing that's probably easier for other people," Echohawk said. "It does take me a little longer than the average reporter to meet deadline. But I do meet deadline. That's the bottom line in newspapers."

His bottom line: he's leaped over the highest hurdles - hampering his so-called handicap.

"When people look down that track at the starting line of a hurdle race, they see the barriers," Echohawk said. "I prefer to see the finish line. It's that opportunity."

See, that boy in the black and white photo had the right vision then. Still does today. He took a blank canvas and turned it into the blueprint of how to live life.

Get updates to Kyle's latest sports stories through Twitter. Click here to follow him.

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