Five years ago, Eddie Delaney was a freshman at the University of Albany. Like many young men, Delaney had played football in high school and wanted to continue playing the sport now that he was in college. So, Delaney and his father made an appointment with the university’s football coach, Bob Ford. Although Delaney had been a team captain in high school, Ford had some reservations about him.
“We were concerned about his hand,” Ford said. “I guess probably 70 percent of the coaches in the nation might have said, ‘No, you can’t do it.'”
Wait, why would a football coach be concerned with a player’s hand? Oh, I guess I forgot to mention one important fact: Delaney was born with only one hand.
Luckily, Ford did allow Delany to join the scout team as a walk-on defensive end player and Delaney practiced against the first-string offensive line. The Great Danes went undefeated in conference games that year. During this time, Delaney gave everything he had to the game.
“He was up against a 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive tackle, and Eddie never backed down once,” Ford said. “He went hard for 11 weeks. Motor never stopped. he got better in that process.”
Now, as a fifth-year senior on the team, Delaney is received some attention from NFL scouts. He has grown almost six inches and gained 50-pounds of muscle and he is one of the star players for the team.
“Ed plays with a reckless abandon that I’ve never seen by anybody around here before,” said Bill Banagan, the defensive line coach. “He flies to the ball every chance he gets. He’s like a kamikaze pilot out there running around. He’s never out of the play. You have to know where he is at all times because he’s going to run plays down from behind.”
Unfortunately, lacking a left hand is not the only physical problem that Delaney had to overcome to become the star college football player he is today. He also has Type 1 diabetes, which often causes him to lose too much energy to continue playing during a game.
“His freshman year, his blood sugar was off the wall and over to the sideline he would come. And it would take probably 15 minutes to get him back to where he could go back in the ballgame,” said Ford. “I told one of our team physicians, ‘This is OK while the kid is a scout team player, but if he ever rises to a level above this, we can’t have a kid coming out for 15 minutes.'”
For most of us, Delaney’s story seem remarkable and extraordinary. However, for Delany and his family, this is just ordinary life.
“I’d rather be acknowledged for my football performance rather than being able to do something (with a handicap),” Delaney said about overcoming this obstacles.
His father, Ed, encouraged Delaney to live a normal life since he was a small child. Eddie learned to ride his bicycle at the same time as his friends learned and played various sports growing up – including football, baseball, and lacrosse – thanks in part to his father’s encouragement.
“I just loved sports, so he played everything,” said Ed about his son. “He was catching footballs and hitting baseballs at the age of 3. When he was playing tee ball, the coaches used to make the outfielders move back, and he could switch hit. He was an incredible athlete.”
Socially, Delaney never had any serious problems.
“There were times when kids taunted me, but I would excel in athletics, speak normally, socialize normally,” he said. “I had a good attitude, always carried myself well. I think that’s why I’ve always had a lot of friends.”
Delaney definitely had a lot of friends in high school, when he was crowned prom king. He also served as the vice president of student council. His slogan when he ran for election? “Vote for the man with one hand and a plan.”
Delaney’s gifts also extend beyond the football field. There are many people in the USA who are born without a hand. Delaney serves as inspiration for many of these people, including Johnny Ryan, a young child whose picture Delaney has taped up in his locker.
“When I was a freshman, I got rookie of the week when we played Sacred Heart,” Delaney said. “[After that,] I mentioned to coach how in every article it always said despite having one hand. I’m like, I appreciate that I’ve overcome things, but I’m the same football player as everyone else. I was the player of the week that week because I was the best rookie. Coach Ford came up to me the next day and said, ‘It’s pretty amazing. You have to realize there are children and people out there who are inspired by you.’ That was probably the first time where I felt that what I do, what I love to do, affects other people.”
Well Delaney, you can add at least one more person to the list of those who are inspired by you, and that person would be me.
Via The San Francisco Chronicle
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