Can he scramble? Will it pop off if he gets hit? Will it hurt the players who hit him?
These are the questions D.J. Vanderwerf faced when he entered the realm of high school sports as the only young man in his area playing with an artificial limb.
A native of Sweetwater, Tennessee, Vanderwerf came in and quarterbacked Sweetwater High School’s football team to a 3-1 record at the end of the 2014-15 season. He’s a three-sport athlete and has lived nearly his entire life without the bottom half of his left leg after being born with fibular hemimelia—a birth defect causing a shortened or entirely absent fibular bone in the leg.
Vanderwerf hasn’t let that dictate his goals, and with the help of a prosthesis, he’s been walking and mobile since he was 15 months old.
Yahoo Sports’ Rivals.com (h/t The Big Lead’s Stephen Douglas) profiled the high school junior when he attended the 2015 Rivals Quarterback Challenge in Cincinnati in April. There, Vanderwerf shared his story, explaining how he’s had to prove he belongs on the playing field. Vanderwerf said:
People doubted me at first, that I couldn’t really do anything with my leg. The coaches had questions about my mobility, if my leg would stay on. You know, if I got hit, if I’d get hurt easily. If I’d hurt the other kids. Once I started playing they realized that I can do anything that anybody else does.
When he’s not working on his spiral, Vanderwerf also pitches for the Sweetwater High School baseball team and plays basketball.
He says he’d like to play sports in college and that he wants to help others with disabilities.
“I’d like to actually become a prosthetist—that’s the person that makes the things that I wear,” Vanderwerf said. “I expect to go to college. I’d like to play a sport in college, preferably football. But we’ll see.”
Dan is on Twitter. Throw D.J. the rock and watch what he do with it.