By Dillon Thomas
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – On Sunday, the Denver Broncos will open their season against the Seattle Seahawks at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Starting for the Seahawks’ defense, will be Shaquem Griffin, the Seahawks’ fifth round rookie, who only has one hand.
Starting the season opener as a rookie, many across the nation have expressed interest in seeing Griffin succeed in the NFL, including Eaglecrest High School teacher and coach Tom Southall.
Southall, a Colorado High School Sports Hall of Fame member, was also born with physical challenges.
“My right arm ends just below the elbow,” Southall told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
Similar to Griffin’s story, a congenital birth defect forced doctors to remove the fingers Southall was born with. While Griffin was born with a hand, which was removed, Southall only had fingers near his elbow.
However, Southall would not let his physical challenges limit him from playing the sports he desired. Growing up with several sports-loving siblings, he found ways to participate.
“I had to work a little bit longer, a little bit harder,” Southall said.
Southall would go on to excel in track, basketball, and football in high school. His fall-of-fame high school stats landed him the opportunity to play Division III football in Colorado Springs.
“To bench press, initially we put bags of sand on my back and doing pushups,” Southall said. “We just always figured out how to get things done.”
Southall said he set records as a punt, and kick, return specialist. He joked the only reason he had such impressive statistics, was because his team was always being scored on, giving him more chances to run the ball.
After a successful sports career of his own, Southall said he enjoyed seeing Griffin find success in the professional leagues. With Griffin making his first start in Denver, Southall said he will be rooting for at least on Seahawks player.
“Even as a Broncos fan, I am going to be cheering for him,” Southall said. “You can’t help but to be excited for him. Denver is in for a real treat to be able to see him play this weekend.”
Now an accounting teacher, and track coach, at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Southall hopes his story, and Griffin’s, will encourage other young athletes to push themselves to be great.
“Don’t let anybody set your limits for you,” Southall said. “You just got to have the desire, and hunger to get it done.”
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.