MILWAUKEE - In the trenches is where Milwaukee Lutheran’s Jaden Hatchett-Stafford feels that he can change the game.
"On offense, I just try to make sure my quarterback is clean," said Jaden Hatchett-Stafford, a Milwaukee Lutheran senior. "On defense, just try to get the ball for my team."
It turns out the game he loves changed him instead.
"I started playing last year, so I finally faced my fears and ended up playing football," said Hatchett-Stafford.
You may be wondering, why? After all, the senior looks every part the imposing defensive end.
"This arm is longer, so it kind of balanced out," said Hatchett-Stafford. "When I was younger, I used to lean toward this side so I had to get my body right so I can stand up straight."
Jaden suffers from Erb’s Palsy, a brachial plexus injury he sustained at birth, which affects his left arm.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves around the shoulder and an injury to it can cause weakness and potentially a loss of feeling and motion.
"When I first started, it was basically up here," said Hatchett-Stafford. "I couldn't do nothing with it, like barely could move it."
Ever since he was six months old, Jaden’s had seven total surgeries to help his left arm. He’s even had nerves transferred from his leg into his neck.
And finally, in January 2020, the 17-year-old had his final surgery.
"After every surgery, after every physical therapy, it just got stronger step by step," said Hatchett-Stafford. "It wasn't a big leap, but it was step by step and finally get it to where I need to be."
With more mobility in his arm, Jaden has even played basketball and baseball. However, football was a different beast, especially since he uses both arms on every single snap.
"At first, I was kind of scared because I didn't want to get hurt," said Hatchett-Stafford. "I was just trying to play soft because I didn't want to hurt my arm, but after I first got like my tackles and pads popping and everything, I just got used to it."
In his two years with the Red Knights, Jaden has flourished as a defensive end and offensive tackle.
"It just says that you can do anything," said Hatchett-Stafford. "Anything you put your mind to you can do it. Work as hard as you can to get to the position you need to get in."
An example of perseverance.
"It definitely boosted my confidence up sky high," said Hatchett-Stafford.
Jaden’s proof that no matter your circumstances, never stop testing your limits.
"I'm way above happy," said Hatchett-Stafford. "It's a bond that I never, ever got to experience with nobody else. These teammates right here, they're like my brothers. I'm just happy that I decided to play, and I know my mom is happy too."