Stories of people overcoming odds, of rising above adversity are great teachers for all of us. The 2018 NFL Draft provided several inspiring stories that we can all learn from. The following 4 men have experienced unique challenges, and have all used adversity to fuel their future success.
Shaquem Girffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, causing the fingers on his left hand to not fully develop. Through his first 4 years of life, this caused so much pain that young Shaquem tried to self-amputate his fingers. Eventually, doctors ended up amputating the fingers on his left hand for him. He went on to play a handful of sports despite having 1 hand and starred at the University of Central Florida. When he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks he not only joined his twin brother, but he became the first one-handed player drafted into the NFL.
Shaquem stayed focused on what he could do, not what he couldn’t. He used his “bad luck” to work on and improve what he could do. (How many of us focus instead on what we can’t currently do?)
During a game late in the 2017 season, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier went in head first for a tackle and ending up crumpled on the turf. He had to undergo spinal stabilization surgery, putting his career and quality of life in jeopardy. Many thought he might never walk again. However, just 4 months later, Shazier walked onto the stage at the 2018 draft to announce the Steelers pick.
This moment displayed Shazier's character and heart. While he will not physically be able to play in 2018, his goal is not only to return to the NFL, but to return as the impact player he once was. Shazier has put his focus on improving instead of dwelling on his injury. All of his energy is being used to heal and get better.
Zack Golditch - although not drafted - signed a free-agent contract with the Chargers. Nearly six years after being shot at a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, Zack Golditch’s NFL dreams are now within reach. Zach didn’t give up, and his hard work and determination would have probably gotten him drafted had it not been for another injury to his hand at the end of his senior season at Colorado State University.
And then there is Baker Mayfield. Baker doesn’t fit the mold of the 3 men mentioned above in that he hasn’t had to overcome a physical hardship. Mayfield started college at Texas Tech as a walk-on and became the first walk-on to be drafted number one. At Texas Tech he was the first walk-on to start his first game. From Texas Tech, he transferred to Oklahoma (as a walk-on again!). At Oklahoma he lead the Sooners to the Playoffs two of the last three seasons and put together back-to-back years that were the best, passer rating-wise, in the history of the game. He then won the 2017 Heisman Trophy in one of the biggest landslides in the award’s history.
Baker is a perfect example of believing in yourself despite what others think of you. If he had listened to everyone’s opinion of his skills, he would not be where he is today.
With the right mindset, injuries, hardships, and perceived ability are nothing but challenges for an athlete to overcome. Without a consistent confidence that comes from within, these 4 athletes would not have been able to overcome the obstacles they have faced. The next time you waiver in the face of adversity, may you use the story of these confident, mentally tough athletes to help push past your obstacle.