When Isaac Lufkin tells people he wants to be a professional football player, he gets furrowed eyebrows.
“They look at me funny at first,” Lufkin told BaltimoreRavens.com. “Then they realize I’m serious.”
You see, Lufkin was born with no arms. Not surprisingly, this makes football quite the challenge.
But as he’s done throughout his life, Lufkin, 14, doesn’t let trials or people’s funny looks slow him down.
Lufkin was a kicker on Classical High School’s freshman football team this year. His squad went undefeated, and won the freshman football state title.
Now he’s got even loftier goals.
“I want to be a Raven,” Lufkin said.
Classical High is in Providence, R.I., so Lufkin is surrounded by New England Patriots fans. Even his mom, Lori Nason, is a Pats fan.
But Lufkin left his heart in Baltimore.
He visited once about two years ago and fell in love with the people. They were nice, something he doesn’t always find at home, he said.
Lufkin was originally drawn to the Ravens by their logo. He thought it was cool. He liked the way Ray Lewis played the game. Even without arms, Lufkin likes tackling. He throws his body into scrums.
“It’s an action sport and I like contact,” Lufkin said, adding that it’s why soccer didn’t work out. “I like the rush. I like getting into the game.”
When Lufkin went to his school’s athletic director, Bob Palazzo, and told him he wanted to play, he was immediately assigned to kicker. That’s when Lufkin started to be a fan of Ravens kicker
“Tucker has my favorite number on him,” Lufkin said. “And he’s a really good kicker. He’s ‘Legatron.’”
Nason said her son never stops talking about Tucker. He always calls him “Legatron,” so much that his mother has trouble remembering Tucker’s real name.
Lufkin’s specialty is the onside kick. He led his division in onside kick recoveries last season. Recovering those kicks is just about the only thing Lufkin asks for help with.
He does everything using his teeth, face, shoulders and feet. He plays video games, cooks for himself and dresses himself. On the football field, he places the ball on the tee by grasping in between his feet.
His incredible independence and do-it-yourself mentality has led him this far.
When Lufkin drops his backpack and somebody helps him pick it up, he drops it again and just to picks it up himself. He brushes away classmates who try to help him pack up his school books at the end of class.
“If people help me, it’s just going to make me weaker because I’m not going to be able to do it myself. Sooner or later there’s not going to be someone there to help me,” Lufkin said.
“People try to help me put my books in my bag when I can do it perfectly and just as fast as them. It’s just a waste of their time. I can do it.”
When it comes to life, and football, Lufkin doesn’t feel he has a disability.
“I have an advantage,” he said, referencing football. “All I work on is my legs. I have more control of my joints, more muscles and more power. I can control them better.”
Since Lufkin’s story broke on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” he’s received tons of attention. He’s heard from college kickers at the University of Michigan and Florida. He’s been invited to go to kicking camps around the country.
It’s been a whirlwind for the young Ravens fan.
Lufkin missed the ending to the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XLVII. His mother made him go to bed at halftime, something Lufkin will never let her live down. This year, he made up for it.
Lufkin and his mother were invited by the NFL to attend Super Bowl XLVIII as VIP guests, seated near celebrities with front-row seats in a suite.
They went on the field before the game, and former President Bill Clinton even stopped by to meet Lufkin. He told him to keep kicking. Lufkin also met and spoke with actress Jennifer Garner, actress and singer Whoopi Goldberg and actor Forest Whitaker.
“It was an incredible experience,” Lufkin said. “It made me want to play in the Super Bowl.”
Who’s going to tell him otherwise?
(Mobile users tap “View in Browser” at the top of the page to see Lufkin kick in his high school football games.)