If you are a football fan reading this, then you probably already know a large part of my story. I was born with a rare condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome. When I was four, I was in so much pain that I tried to cut my own fingers off with a kitchen knife.
My mom took me to the doctors for surgery. When I walked out of that hospital, my left hand was gone.
While you probably know that I played for UCF along with my twin brother until he got drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, you don’t know how I got there.
When I was eight, an opposing coach tried to get me disqualified from a youth football game. He believed that football was a two-handed game and I shouldn’t be allowed to play. It was at that moment that I made a decision.
I was never going to quit; even if the world wanted me to. I had to prove them wrong; not just that coach, but everyone.
That resolve was tested during my college career at the University of Central Florida. After Shaquill got the chance to show what he can do and ultimately made it to the league, I was dropped to the third string. Then the practice squad.
And then before the third season, I was sent home.
After all I’d been through; after all I’d overcome. I almost did it. I almost quit. Then I thought about everybody who was like me who had to fight every day to get the chance to be treated like equals.
It was at that moment that this is why it happened to me. So, I earned my way back on the field. I led the team in tackles. I became the AAC Defensive Player of the Year and helped UCF become the only undefeated team in the nation.
Through all that, I learned a very important lesson—people can doubt me all they want. What matters is that I will never again doubt myself. I will never let any obstacle stand in my way.
That is what I hope to teach people by telling my story; never quit, never back down, work hard, and your dreams can become a reality. You can overcome any obstacles in your way.
It worked for me and it can work for you.