He’s the first person to greet you when you walk into the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center office, but there’s more than meets the eye with Matthew Scholten.
While Scholten’s current title is Human Resources Assistant with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District, he is also a retired Army staff sergeant and an adaptive athlete for the Kansas City Chiefs wheelchair football team. His time within the Army shaped how he would live the rest of his life and led to him finding his love for wheelchair football.
By the time he graduated high school, Scholten had traveled to every state west of the Mississippi River and met diverse groups of people. These interactions inspired him to enlist in the Army. He served for 20 years.
“I met and saw all kinds of people and wanted to do what I could to honor and protect them, all the people,” Scholten said.
On August 22, 2007, while on night patrol, his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit a 500-pound IED just outside of Bagdad. Thankfully, Scholten survived but suffered many injuries. One life-changing injury was the impact to his vertebrae. To be able to continue walking, he underwent spinal reconstruction surgery.
While recovering from surgery and finishing his last two years in the Army, Scholten was a part of the Warrior Transition Unit, WTU, at Fort Riley. Warrior Transition Units are part of the Army Recovery Care Program, formerly known as the Army Wounded Warrior Program. This program is designed to help transition wounded, ill and injured Soldiers back to their units or into civilian life.
The WTU program encourages staying active through adaptive sports, which Scholten participated in. He excelled at multiple sports and was sent to represent the Army in the regional trials for the Department of Defense Warrior Games at Fort Hood. From there he was sent to the final team trials at Fort Bliss. While he was not selected for the final team, this experience instilled in him his passion to stay active within adaptive sports.
“I thought, I love doing this. So, I started to try more sports and just kind of fell in love with it at that point,” Scholten said.
After retiring from active service and moving to Kansas City, he reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides adaptive sports leagues. The VA put him in touch with Kolton Kincaid, who is the primary representative for the wheelchair football league for Midwest Adaptive Sports, located in Kansas City, Missouri.
Midwest Adaptive Sports offers adaptive sports for adults and children. Many athletes join multiple sports. Scholten joined the wheelchair football league in 2021 and continues to practice with other sports.
“We all goof off and have fun with each other. We all get we will have good days and bad days. We have a soundboard of someone who understands. It’s nice,” Scholten said.
The wheelchair football team at Midwest Adaptive Sports is part of the Wheelchair Football League, WFL. Since the team is a part of the WFL, they are able to use the Kansas City Chiefs branding.
The Chiefs were a part of the inaugural WFL season was in 2021, allowing Scholten to be a part of the first-ever WFL tournament. The Chiefs won the tournament with a 5-0 record in Phoenix, Arizona. The second tournament was held in Kansas City in the parking lot of Arrowhead stadium. While playing in the tournament, he was able to meet former KC Chiefs players Bobby Bell, who was their guest coach, and Will Shields.
After the two tournaments determined the top three teams, the Chiefs played in the championship tournament in Los Angeles the same week as the Superbowl. The Chiefs became the 2021 runners-up in the championship tournament. While his team had a great inaugural year, Scholten says playing in his first tournament was his most memorable experience being a part of the team.
“It was the first tournament ever played; we went undefeated through a couple hard games. We won it all. To share that with all the guys was pretty cool. We were in newfound territory,” Scholten said.
Players can go in for both offense and defense, but Scholten said he mainly plays on defense or is the back-up center for the offense.
This year, the WFL KC Chiefs have attended two out of three tournaments and will go on to attend the championship tournament in February 2023 during the week of the Superbowl.
Besides playing for the WFL, Scholten is active within the community. He is a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, a non-profit supporting victims of child abuse. He is also a member of the 501st Legion, which he travels to children’s hospitals dressed in licensed Star Wars costumes to visit young patients.
While Scholten has held many titles so far in his life, from Army staff sergeant to adaptive athlete for the KC Chiefs wheelchair football team, his favorite title is “proud Bengals fan,” referring to his love of the NFL Bengals.