Whether you blame it on movies, our shallow society, or our own lack of imagination, you have to admit there’s a certain image that comes along with the term heroes. Brawny. Lightly tanned. Covered in a thin sheen of sweat. And most certainly able-bodied, nary a disability in sight. So basically – Sylvester Stallone.
These next three people probably don’t care that our idea of heroes is so narrow, since they’ve spent their lives turning their disabilities into triumphs.
James Earl Jones, the golden voice that almost wasn’t
You may think that name sounds familiar, but if you heard his voice you’d know exactly who he was. Not only is James Earl Jones a distinguished actor, but he also has one of the most famous voices in the world. Among the characters Jones has given voice to are Darth Vader from the Star Wars franchise, and Mufasa from the Lion King. He was also chosen to narrate the audio book version of the bible.
Most people know all of that about James Earl Jones. What they don’t know is how close that famous voice-acting career came to not existing at all. Jones suffered from a stutter in childhood that was so severe, he stopped talking at the age of 8. He was mute until the age of 15.
Tom Dempsey, Stumpy the placekicker
When Tom Dempsey was born, he had no fingers on his right hand, and no toes on his right foot. You might think that sort of thing would cause a man to pursue a career that didn’t require heavy use of his right hand or fight foot. But Tom Dempsey decided to become a professional placekicker in the National Football League. And yes, he kicked with his right foot.
With a specially-fashioned shoe, Dempsey kicked for five different teams in the ’70s. He wasn’t renowned for his accuracy, but he was renowned for his power. He kicked a 63-yard field goal in 1970, a record that was only broken in 2013. It’s worth noting that to set that record he not only had to overcome his disability, but also a raging hangover from the night before.
Matthias Schlitte, strong-arm
Matthias Schlitte is a German man who was born with a rare bone defect that causes his right arm to be 33% bigger than his left arm. Basically, Schlitte is 150-pound man with the right arm of Sylvester Stallone.
In his teens, Schlitte decided to make the most of his defect and showed up at an arm-wrestling competition. His competitors initially laughed at his willowy frame, but the laughter stopped when he won. Because he weighs just 150 lbs, Schlitte is able to enter competitions in a low weight class. His 18-inch circumference arm has led him to 14 international arm-wrestling competition championships.
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