J.J. WEAVER

Life can be the greatest…

Or it can be the pits.

Certainly, there are plenty of things which are out of our control.

Also true is the fact that a positive mental approach cuts a wide swath, and can help neutralize– and then even dramatically reduce, if not eliminate altogether–negative circumstances.

And the vise-like grip of negativity in general.

Attitude is everything.

Believe it.

We have choices.

It’s up to us.

To each individual.

Look no further than J.J. Weaver, as a shining example of this very notion.

The other day, I watched a clip of J.J. Weaver playing football for the University of Kentucky.

#13.

An outside linebacker with good size, he was impressive.

The college football landscape is full of guys like J.J. Weaver.

He’s good, and he may end up being great.

On the shortest day of the year, (Tuesday December 21) Weaver was named one of three winners of the 2021 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The announcement was made by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), in association with the Associated Press (AP) and the Fiesta Bowl Organization.

Weaver joined Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Florida State’s McKenzie Milton as honorees.

Weaver was tearing it up during his freshman season in 2020, recording 33.5 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss through nine games, when he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee at Florida in November.

Despite missing the last two games, the redshirt freshman earned All-SEC Freshman Team recognition.

This season, recovered and healthy, he had 6 sacks, ten tackles for a loss, and two interceptions for the 9–3 Wildcats (#25) who defeated Iowa (#17) in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1.

The fact that he coped with the death of his father, Terrance, and his Moore High School coach, Rob Reader, in the last year, testifies to Weaver’s resolve, reserve and toughness.

But not more than this:

J.J. Weaver has five fingers on his right hand.

And a thumb.

That makes six fingers.

Polydactyly is a condition in which a person–or an animal–has more than five fingers or toes on one, or on each, hand or foot.

It tends to run in families.

It also may result from genetic mutations or environmental causes.

The usual treatment is surgery to remove the extra digit.

And it typically takes place when the child is between 1–2 years of age.

Didn’t happen for Weaver.

And new research has shown, it’s okay.

It’s not uncommon for human babies to be born with extra fingers or toes.

The polydactyly mutation presents in one of 500–1,000 newborns.

The extra digits have long been thought useless.

As bioengineer Etienne Burdet of Imperial College London noted, “extra fingers and toes are traditionally seen as a birth defect, so nobody has thought to study how useful they might really be.”

A new study of two people who kept their additional fingers–six on each hand–has shown that they can type on their phones, play complicated video games, and even tie a shoelace, all with just one hand.

Remarkably dexterous.

In fact, researchers found that polydactyl subjects were far more dexterous than their five-fingered counterparts, as they were able to move their supernumerary fingers independently of the others, with a thumb-like range of motion.

Scans revealed that these extra digits had three phalanges, as a finger does–while the thumb has only two–along with their own muscles, tendons and nerves.

And high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while the subjects were performing their tasks, showed that the brain was working harder to manage the extra digits–but not to any overall cognitive detriment.

Remarked Burdet, “The polydactyl individual’s brains were well adapted to controlling extra workload, and even had dedicated areas for the extra fingers.

It’s amazing that the brain has the capacity to do this seemingly without borrowing resources from elsewhere.”

J.J. Weaver was brought up in a way to feel good about himself.

To be helpful to others.

And to never forget where he came from.

When he was made aware that a Lexington, (KY.) elementary school teacher and two of her students shared this condition with him, he got on his horse.

It was like he was chasing a quarterback.

Teacher Kaye Cambron invited Weaver to speak to her class in October.

There he was, flashing his massive right hand with a fully developed sixth finger–along with a broad smile and words of encouragement–for the kids.

It was not lost.

Said student Sharmante Ndegeya–who lamented that Weaver’s [extra] finger was cooler than hers, “I learned that everybody is unique and special in their own way.”

She has no plans to remove her finger.

If that’s not paying it forward, I don’t know what it is.

Kudos to J.J. Weaver.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in January 2022.]

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Peter J. Kaplan

Peter J. Kaplan

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