Defensive end Eddie Delaney is living his dream playing Division I football at UAlbany. Despite being born without a left hand, the 19-year-old Holtsville, N.Y. native is thriving on the gridiron. He garnered Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week honors in only his second career start and co-led the team in pass breakups this season. He also received second team honors for the Northeast Conference.
Delaney, a sophomore business administration major, notices his opponents peer down at his hand at the line of scrimmage. But it doesn't bother him. He's never seen himself as disabled.
He also doesn't see himself as a role model, either -- but he is. As Delaney leaves the sidelines after a recent game, he spots a group of young children smiling and waving emphatically from the bleachers. He walks over to them, autographs their caps and shirts. It was then Delaney realized he is a role model.
"I've never thought of myself that way. I'm just a kid who plays football and goes to school," said Delaney, who was diagnosed with diabetes at age six and wears an insulin pump. "But they look up to me. They see me and think they can do anything, too. It's a good feeling. It means a lot."
To his teammates, Delaney is known as a bit of a prankster. Over the summer, Delaney told freshmen on the football squad that he lost his hand in a shark attack. Some of them still believe it, he said, laughing. He also jokes about dressing up as a pirate every Halloween.
When he isn't playing practical jokes, Delaney can be found talking with children who have disabilities, emphasizing the same message his parents instilled in him -- you can do anything you set out to do. Delaney and his Great Danes teammates hosted more than 90 children with diabetes, known as "The Sugar-Free Gang." Coordinated through Ellis Hospital, the joint effort allowed these kids to meet an inspirational athlete who can share their stories of growing up with diabetes.
Delaney had a similar experience, meeting former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Abbott, who was also born without a hand. Like Abbott, Delaney is determined not to let it slow him down. It hasn't yet.
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