NFL gives armless high school kicker VIP trip to Super Bowl
POSTED: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 8:00pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 8:04pm
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (CNN) — His pick to win the big game may have lost Sunday, but 14-year-old Isaac Lufkin is still smiling after a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Super Bowl.
Isaac and his mom Lori were guests of the National Football League and got to experience America's premier sporting event behind the scenes as a VIP.
We first told you about Isaac last week. He was born without arms, but that hasn't stopped him from being place kicker for his Classical High School freshman football team in Providence, Rhode Island. In fact, he helped lead his team to an undefeated 2013 season and the freshman football state title.
Isaac's passion for football is clear, but when you watch him kick it's more than passion. It's proof that almost anything is possible.
"I wanna play in the NFL. The (Baltimore) Ravens," Isaac told CNN as he practiced his kicking on the Classical High School football field.
His determination and fiercely independent spirit caught the attention of many people -- including the NFL -- after CNN's "The Situation Room" aired his story last week. At MetLife Stadium he got to go on the field before the game to watch the players warm up, he shook hands with superstar actors and was feted in a luxury box.
And then President Bill Clinton stopped by to say hello.
"It was the best honor that has ever been bestowed on me," Isaac said.
What did the 42nd president say?
"He told me I should keep on kicking." Sounds like good advice.
'Pity just makes me weaker'
Several doors have opened for the ninth grader. There have been invitations to be on reality shows and kicking camps and football coaches have reached out.
And of course, Facebook friend requests that have been so numerous, Isaac says he's had to set up a second Facebook page.
His mother, Lori, told CNN the attention has been "overwhelming, but in a positive way ... I went from mom who wants everybody to see my son the way I do to OK, mom is super secretary."
Despite all the attention Isaac has gotten, she said, "He needs to prove to me academically that he can finish high school with a great GPA. Because the only way he is going to play for the NFL is if he does have one, so education is No. 1 right now."
You may wonder why Isaac doesn't have prosthetic arms. Dr. Michael Nunnery, who has been Isaac's prosthetist since he was a toddler, said artificial limbs wouldn't necessarily improve Isaac's quality of life right now. Isaac has become so capable and flexible on his own -- able to type, play video games, eat and dress himself with his feet -- prosthetic arms may hinder that. Nunnery says having prosthetic arms would certainly make kicking harder for Isaac by throwing off his balance.
As for Isaac, he is adamant he wants to do everything on his own.
"I don't like pity. Pity just makes me weaker," he said.
He added that he understands if someone wants to pick up his backpack if he drops it, but he's just going to put it back on the floor and pick it up himself to prove his independence.
"I look forward 20 years and I'm on my own, and I have my own house," he envisioned. "Who's going to help me? My mom's gone. Who's going to help me? I'll just be sitting on my bed in the same clothes. Never being able to brush my teeth or my hair or washing it. No, that's not a life for me."
Not a soccer fan
For now, Isaac's dreaming of finishing his high school football career undefeated for the next three years, then making his way to the NFL. He wants to keep wearing purple, but one day as a player for the Ravens.
Isaac lead his division in onside kicks that were recovered this season and he didn't back off on his other kickoffs. Watch game tape and you'll see him plowing into the scrums to assist on a tackle. He told the Providence Journal, who first reported this story, that he tried soccer and it wasn't for him.
"I played a lot of soccer, but I'm not a good soccer player," he told the newspaper. "I'm too aggressive. I like contact."
He hopes his Classical teammates, and others, will be inspired when they see him out on the field. There are no excuses, he said, no way they can be lazy.
"If I can kick a ball and set it up and do my own thing, then they can do their own thing," he told CNN.
On Sunday, you could see that Isaac wanted to go on the field at MetLife Stadium and have a kick. "I couldn't stop smiling and I still can't stop smiling. It's exciting. Very exciting," he said. That smiled remained even as he watched the Broncos and Peyton Manning come up short against the Seattle Seahawks.
He made a prediction. He would be back at the Super Bowl one day. It might be a good distance down the road, but he was positive he would get there.
"No doubt," he said.