Every senior Arkansas Tech University football player, band member and spirit squads member who stepped foot on Simmons Bank Field at Thone Stadium for their final game on Saturday, Nov. 11, overcame obstacles to achieve their goals in college.
That quality is personified by Mason Blaty, who has used his talents and determination to push beyond the challenges created by cerebral palsy to become a four-year cheerleader and a leader in general on the ATU campus.
“I’ve always wanted to live life a little larger than most,” said Blaty. “I came across that saying one time, and when I read it I realized that no matter what was in my way or what happens in my life, I can always push myself to live life a little larger than most.”
At seven months of age, Blaty suffered a stroke. As a result, he developed hemiplegic cerebral palsy that affected the left side of his body.
He went on to attend Bentonville High School, where he was active on the diving, bowling and cheer teams.
Upon his graduation in 2020, Blaty selected Arkansas Tech as his university of choice.
“The reason I chose ATU was because of the community we have here,” said Blaty. “I had many other options at some bigger schools, but after visiting Tech and seeing how strong the community is here…how I can interact with people and have these relationships I wouldn’t have anywhere else…that’s part of the reason why I wanted to come to Tech. Coming into college during COVID times, I didn’t know what to expect. As time progressed, amazing opportunities were presented to me through organizations and clubs.”
Blaty continued to “live life a little larger than most” at ATU by re-starting the ATU Skydiving Club, participating in Spartan Extreme Endurance events, snowboarding and paddleboarding.
“I’ve always wanted to treat myself as normal,” said Blaty. “I’ve never looked at it as a setback or a disability. It’s just an obstacle I had to overcome in my day-to-day life. It creates different challenges and opportunities even, however, I’ve always looked at it as a way to push myself even further and I can use it as a way to inspire others to do the same in their lives.”
On campus, Blaty was active in the new student orientation program and progressed to the Green and Gold leadership team during his senior year. He said he takes pride in creating a positive introduction to ATU for freshmen.
Blaty was elected to the ATU Homecoming court in 2022. He will graduate from ATU in May 2024 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree and an Associate of Science in Nuclear Technology degree. He is also minoring in mathematics.
“One of my biggest inspirations has been one of our lab instructors, Jacob Weidenfeller,” said Blaty. “He’s always pushed me to get through my projects, to work on my own projects on the side and to develop my mental and physical capabilities throughout this college experience.”
Blaty’s short-term plan after graduation is to remain close to his Arkansas home, but he has a specific long-term career goal in mind.
“The dream is to work for Universal Orlando on their creative team, but anything in the theme park field…working on roller coasters and other attractions…would be a dream of mine,” said Blaty.
Before he turns his focus to the pursuit of that dream, he must complete another: serving as an ATU cheerleader.
“Cheer has given me a new perspective on college as well as given me these people I might not have met otherwise,” said Blaty. “It’s taught me how to balance a sports activity and college, and it provided me with people who have similar experiences who helped me through that and got me through it to the point I am now.
“It’s definitely been hitting me lately,” continued Blaty when asked about his final football game. “Cheer isn’t really a sport that can continue after college. Football is my favorite season, so it will definitely be emotional. When the clock hits zero on senior day, there definitely might be some tears.”
Those tears will no doubt be followed by pride for a job well done and the example he has set for all who marvel at his ability to fight on.
“One of the biggest things to overcome any obstacle is perspective,” said Blaty. “Your perspective on anything that’s going on in your life will define it almost 100 percent of the time. If you’re able to look at something and decide it’s not going to stop you, that’s the biggest thing you can do. It’s your life. You have control over it, and you can overcome anything in that life.”