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Inspirational Athlete With Cerebral Palsy Visits Ravens

Posted Aug 21, 2014

Ben Jackson, a 21-year-old power lifter, broke the team huddle with a message of hard work.

“Cerebral palsy has never looked so good.”

That’s what was on the T-shirt Ben Jackson wore to meet the Ravens at practice.

Talk about a confident young man.

Jackson, 21, has spastic cerebral palsy, but he hasn’t let that limit him as an athlete or everyday human being. He’s using it to be an inspiration for others – including the Ravens.

Jackson visited the Under Armour Performance Center on Thursday. He had lunch with Harbaugh, hung out with players in the locker room and broke the huddle at the end of practice. Afterwards, he chatted with Owner Steve Bisciotti, quarterback Joe Flacco, Senior Advisor to Player Development O.J. Brigance, who is battling ALS, among others.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking, but then you realize they’re just people like you and me,” Jackson said. “They might be a little faster, a little stronger, but they’re just people.”

Despite his physical limitations, Jackson was a wrestler in high school. He continued his education at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pa., but the school doesn’t have a wrestling program.

That’s when Jackson shifted gears and decided to become a power lifter. He’s training to become a 2016 Paralympian. Jackson was bench pressing 45 pounds in January and is now up to 200.

“We’re not setting a number to reach,” Jackson said, referring to him and his trainer. “We’re just continuing to work as hard as we can. We know what the record is, but I’m just keeping that in the back of my mind. At the end of the day, we want to smash every record.”

Harbaugh saw a Gatorade commercial featuring Jackson and showed it to his players during a team meeting. Harbaugh also encouraged reporters to go meet Jackson.

“We had a real special guest here,” Harbaugh said. “What he does every day to accomplish the things he’s doing has inspired our football team. It was just a great visit from a great young man.”

Jackson talked to the team about hard work. That’s all he’s ever known.

“Take every 24 hours and crush it,” Jackson said to the players.

“In the wrestling room, they teach you about hard work and dedication. They focus on becoming the very best athlete that you can be. Now I’m taking that same drive, motivation and desire to the bench press.”

Jackson said his visit was “surreal,” but just another step towards spreading his message of persistence.

“[Being here today] just means anything is possible. You could motivate the guys down the road or some of the best athletes in the world,” Jackson said.

“The Baltimore Ravens definitely now have a place in my heart.”

Watch Jackson’s Gatorade commercial here (mobile users click “View in browser” above):

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