7 Pro Athletes That Overcame Disabilities To Succeed

7) Rocky  Bleier -- Football

While he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was shipped off to  Vietnam, where he suffered a  40% disability to his right foot and leg were severely injured from an exploding grenade.  After serious self-imposed exercise regimen Bleier worked his way back into the Steelers backfield after standing out on special teams.  His work blocking and running helped to take Pittsburgh to four Super Bowls.


6) Lou Brissie -- Baseball

When in Italy serving his country in W.W. II, he was hit by artillery fire that shattered his shin bone into 30 pieces and broke his foot and ankle.  Doctors attempted to amputate his leg, but Brissie was somehow able to convince the doctors from doing so. He required 23 operations over a two-year period and finally made it to the majors and was able to pitch with a leg brace.  He managed to finish his career with a 44-48 record in 897.2 innings pitched. He also had 436 strikeouts and a 4.07 career earned run average.  He was selected to the 1949 All-Star team and pitched 3 innings.


5) Tom Dempsey -- Football

Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and modified his kicking style to kick the ball straight on instead of "soccer-style" like all other kickers. Using a specialized boot, Dempsey ended up having a successful NFL career and in 1970 he kicked the longest field goal in NFL history (63 yards) a record that still stands today.


4) Glenn Cunningham -- Track and Field

Cunningham had both of his legs severely burned in schoolhouse fire at age 8.  He was burned so badly in the fire that he lost all toes on his left foot.  Despite the adversity he became the NCAA and AAU champion in the mile. Glenn then went on to win the Sullivan Trophy for athletic achievements and sportsmanship. In addition, he set a world record in the mile in 1934 with 4:06.7 and won a silver medal in the 1,500 meters in the 1936 Olympics.


3) Natalie du Toit -- Swimming

One day when riding home from swim practice on a scooter, Natalie was hit by a car and ended up losing her leg.  She was determined not to let the injury stop her and won 4 gold medals at the 2004 Paralympic games.  Not satisfied, Natalie qualified to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, becoming the first female amputee swimmer ever to qualify for the Olympics where she placed 16th in a field of 24 in the 10,000m swim.


2) Peter Gray -- Baseball

When he was only 6 years old, Gray slipped while working on a farm resulting in his arm being caught in a tractor's spokes.  The arm had to be amputated above the elbow.   He learned how to catch a baseball and quickly drop his glove while transferring the ball to his hand in one motion.   He pursued baseball and became a standout minor league ball player winning the "Southern League Most Valuable Player" in 1944.  In 1945 he became the only one-armed major leaguer in history, when he signed with the St. Louis Browns.  He played 77 games with the Browns and batted .218, his glove now rests in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


1) Jim Abbott -- Baseball

Jim Abbott was born without a right hand.  In high school he not only was a stand-out on the baseball team, but also as a quarterback; he lead his football team to the state championships.  As an amateur he pitched the final game of the 1988 Summer Olympics and won the USA a gold medal.  He joined the major leagues without playing a single minor league game and won 12 games in his first season, the most by a rookie since 1976.    He finished his pro-career with a 87-108 record.  The highlight of his career came when he threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on September 4th, 1993. 

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October 1. 2008 14:36


Those guys are pretty awesome to overcome such odds!


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June 6. 2009 16:19


As I was reading this, I was scrolling down and thinking to myself...there is no way they could not include Jim Abbott. I remember watching this guy as a kid and thinking how amazing it was for this guy to pitch with one arm.

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October 11. 2009 13:34


This is very inspiring and should remind us to be thankful for what we do have.

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