Search Isaac Lufkin on Facebook, and the results generate a public figure who has 500 “Likes”.
This is Lufkin’s second Facebook page — created due to an influx of friend requests over the past several months.
Earlier this year he received not one, but two letters from U.S. Presidents — Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. Lufkin and his mother Lori were even invited to this year’s Super Bowl as VIP guests of the National Football League.
It was a dream come true for the Classical High (Providence, R.I.) sophomore, who has been in the national spotlight since his freshman season.
Lufkin was born without arms. He’s quick to state that he doesn’t like to be helped.
“If someone has pity on you, how are you doing to learn anything?” Lufkin said. “You’re going to be smothered with attention, but you’re not going to get stronger or know how to push through.”
He applies that mentality in his approach to football. Last season as a freshman, Lufkin, a kicker, led his division in onside kick recoveries and helped Classical to an undefeated record and a state title.
Lufkin said he naturally takes to the position in part because of his leg strength, which, combined with his speed and flexibility, allows him to punch through the football with power.
Though during his childhood Lufkin wore myoelectric prosthetics — considered the closest alternative to an anatomical hand or arm and designed to mimic human motion by using electronic components — he prefers not to use prosthetics these days because he finds them uncomfortable.
Growing up, Lufkin preferred to make use of his feet to master how to brush his teeth, get dressed and even type and play video games. He also learned how to eat and write using his feet.
“He’s a very independent,” said Classical High athletic director Bob Palazzo. “His personality is very bold. It exudes in every motion and activity.”
So much so that if he drops his backpack and someone picks it up, he’ll purposely drop it again and pick it up himself. Lufkin credits his mom for cultivating his self-described “viciously independent” spirit.
“People look at him and think he’s disabled, that he can’t do things or that he’s weak,” Lori said. “I raised him to speak his mind and to be strong-willed.
“He’s going to have to do things for himself or he won’t be successful in the world.”
Lufkin applies his mom’s advice in every aspect of his life — especially sports. Though he played soccer for a season at age 12, he didn’t enjoy it because he wanted more contact.
He felt football was his calling when he walked into Classical High as a freshman and noticed the school’s football trophies and plaques. He was inspired to be part of the legacy. And though he played briefly during his childhood and in middle school, it wasn’t until his freshman year that he wanted to pursue it more seriously.
“Football is the all-American sport that shows the heart in people,” Lufkin said. “I thought that by playing maybe more people with disabilities would be inspired to play sports.”
Though Lori was initially hesitant — she feared he would be tackled and potentially get seriously injured — she was comforted knowing that her son would be the second armless kicker in the school’s history. Approximately 50 years ago, Chris Schuman served as Classical’s a kicker. And like Lufkin, Schuman was recognized by a president — John F Kennedy sent him a letter in 1963, according to ABC6.
“I raised him to believe the sky’s the limit,” Lori said.
Lufkin’s ambitions know no boundaries. He wants to help Classical win a state title four years in a row. He aspires to play in the NFL some day.
Between studying and football practices, Lufkin also manages attention from media. Earlier this year he was invited on The Arsenio Hall Show, and Lufkin was also featured on CNN and Fox News.
“I’m glad the world finally sees him the way I do,” Lori said. “He’s inspiring and uplifting.”
Added Lufkin, “My goal is to reach people. That’s all I really want.”