Kentucky v Georgia

Source: Todd Kirkland / Getty

Seven years ago, NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham amazed football fans with his phenomenal one-handed catch versus the Dallas Cowboys. Since then, the technique has caught on with other players, but one collegiate athlete may have a bit of an advantage when it comes to pulling off the feat. Kentucky Wildcats linebacker J.J. Weaver was recently outed as having six fingers – all fully developed and functional – on his right hand.

The medical condition, officially known as polydactyly, occurs in approximately 1 in 500 births and is more commonly found among African Americans than any other race or ethnicity. “I was always hiding my finger, never tell nobody because I was picked on, bullied about being different with my extra finger,” Weaver said on ESPN’s College GameDay. “They used to call me an alien.” In fact, the 21-year-old sophomore was able to keep it a secret for the first two years of his college career by wearing five-fingered gloves.

However, astute observers noticed photos of Weaver showing six fingers in an ESPN article and wondered if they saw an optical illusion. It turned out that Weaver spoke with the UK equipment manager about making a six-fingered glove for him; that way, he would be able to use his hand freely and not painfully force two digits into one opening anymore. The accommodation relieved him not only physically but also emotionally.

This also inspired J.J. and his mother, Stacey Sherrell, to come up with his own brand, The Perfect Fit. “That’s my best friend,” Weaver told Fox Radio’s Kelsey Nicole Nelson (approximately at the 9:05 mark in the video below). “She saved my life, literally from moving from Florida to here, she helped me with everything I can accomplish. She’s the one who got the “The Perfect Fit”; shout out to her for that.”

Weaver has been facing adversity in other ways, though. His father was murdered just prior to the season, and then he later suffered an ACL tear during the year. “With my therapist, I cried every day to her, I opened up to her, I told her how I was feeling,” he shared. “[I] t’s just a blessing to still be here and to still talk about what happened even though it’s hard to.”

Even so, he still uses his experiences to motivate others. Weaver paid a visit to a third-grade teacher in Kentucky who has polydactyly. Two of the teacher’s students have the condition as well, and so he used the opportunity as a teachable moment.

“I have an extra finger,” Weaver told the group. “What made me different, what made me come out here and speak to you guys, just to inspire you guys about being different. Follow your dreams… Every day, they still do (make fun of me). It is mean. That’s why I came out here to speak to you guys. It’s okay to be different.”