Zach Aubuchon stands just 3-foot-11, but 6-foot-4 Grain Valley High School graduate and former Eagles football standout Tristan Pfeiffer said, “I look up to Zach more than anyone I know. Everyone at our school loves him, and he loves life like no one else.
“He comes to school every day with that big smile on his face and that just makes everyone around him feel good.”
Aubuchon, the senior manager of the Eagles football and baseball teams, has a form of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, but once you see that giant smile on his face, you understand why he is held in such high esteem by his peers.
“My mom and dad are normal size, and I have three sisters who are normal size,” said Aubuchon, who easily maneuvers his way through the high school hallways, “but I never think about being a little person.
“I have it. I live with it. I make the most of it. And everyone at the high school and in our community treats me great – just like a normal high school kid.”
He pauses for a moment, and adds, “When we go on the road, some kids who don’t understand my situation might say something kind of mean, but that’s okay because I understand and I can deal with it. It’s no big deal and I have a lot of people to support me everywhere I go.”
Baseball coach Brian Driskell is one of Aubuchon’s biggest fans.
“He’s crazy, I think that’s why the guys on the team like him so much,” Driskell quipped. “He’s a lot more popular than I am, and I’m still a little bitter about that.”
As Aubuchon zips out onto the football field on his new segue, he’s greeted like a rock star.
“I don’t know if there is a more popular kid at our school than Zach,” Eagles football coach David Allie said. “He’s always smiling, always having fun – and he can give it and take it.
“We have a drill where we use trash cans, and we’re out running this drill and Zach pops out of one of the trash cans. It cracked us all up.”
The new segue is a gift from the charity group Variety International. Aubuchon was a recent guest speaker, talking about overcoming obstacles and making the most out of life — which he does all the time.
“I spoke to a group of Hy-Vee managers about overcoming everyday obstacles and it went really well,” Aubuchon said. “I really enjoy talking to groups, and when I was done, Variety gave me a new segue - which is great, because it really helps me get around.”
When he’s not on his segue, you can find him on the sidelines at the football stadium or behind the wheel of his pickup truck.
“This big ol’ truck pulls into the parking lot and I look up and see this familiar face – and it’s Zach! The kid is driving,” chuckles Allie, who presented Aubuchon with his own letter jacket a year ago. “You know, when he got here as a freshman, there might have been some novelty because of his height, but now, he’s just one of the guys, and we all love being around him.”
Aubuchon’s face lights up when asked about his truck.
“I have an extension on the pedals and it makes it easy for me to drive,” Aubuchon said. “I passed my test the first time. I love driving. I can’t wait to drive my friends around since people have driven me around for such a long time. It’s pretty cool.”
Aubuchon had a special reunion at a recent practice session when Pfeiffer returned from Western Illinois to work with the Eagles football team. They were best friends when Pfeiffer was in high school.
“I don’t really know how we became friends, but we did, and we’re still good friends,” Aubuchon said. “I think it’s cool that he says he looks up to me, because I look up to him. And I mean, I really look up to him — he’s tall — and one of the best kids I know!”