When Jeff Resler finally realized that he was disabled, he chose cheerful resignation over bitterness. Instead of crying, "Where's the rest of me?" he shrugged and said, "I guess He just didn't make all of me."
Resler, a 6'2", 260-pound guard for Oklahoma, has been without the use of his left hand since birth. The hand was malformed, and it was amputated when he was seven days old to avoid infection. But as far as Resler is concerned, his handicap hasn't been much more than an inconvenience. Baseball? Played plenty until junior high school. Golf? Beats his dad with the help of 280-yard drives. Wrestle? Through his sophomore year in high school. Shot put? State high school champion with a throw of 59'6". Anchor the offensive line at Oklahoma? "It never occurred to me that I couldn't," he says.
As a redshirt freshman last season, Resler was second-team All-Big Eight. "Maybe because he's only got one hand, he's developed the mentality to do whatever it takes," says Sooner assistant coach Merv Johnson. "I mean, to see him lacing up those shoulder pads or those high-top football shoes, it tugs at your heartstrings. Let's put it this way, he's gonna do everything everybody else does, except he's gonna do it better."
"My parents never told me I couldn't do anything," says Resler. Growing up in Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City, Resler was encouraged to participate in any sport that interested him. However, he didn't do any weightlifting until his junior year in high school, when he was fitted for a prosthesis. Now Resler bench-presses more than 400 pounds.
His parents made only one accommodation for his handicap. "Did you ever think how hard it would be to button a dress shirt with one hand?" says his mother, Diane. "Those little buttons on the collar? Or how about buttoning the cuff?" So she would replace the cuff buttons on her son's shirts with snaps.
Resler's biggest disability has been a series of knee injuries. He tore ligaments in his left knee before his senior season in high school and didn't play a down that fall. The next year, in a 1990 preseason scrimmage at Oklahoma, he went down with another season-ending knee injury, but he came back strong last season. Says Resler, "I can usually do what I set my mind to."
Resler finds football easier than tying shoes.