Wakefield linebacker Shellton Justice loves to prove people wrong when they tell him what he can’t do.
But this time, the 175-pound junior really can’t.
His junior football season is over. Thursday, Justice will undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL and other injuries in his left knee. His rehabilitation will take months.
“I’ve accepted this,” he said. “Things happen. I’ll just have to work a little harder.”
Few things have been easy for Justice, who was born with a disability.
Justice weighed almost 11 pounds at birth, and his mother, Shelly Jackson, believes that during a difficult birth his brachial plexus nerves were damaged. These are a set of nerves running from the spine, through the neck and armpit to the shoulder. His set does not connect to his spine, his mother said.
His left arm is essentially useless, especially useless on a football field. His left arm is shorter, smaller, less developed and has limited mobility.
“But I’ll hit you,” Justice said before the injury. “I love to play football. I’ve found my sport.”
It was hard at times, he said, when he was growing up and he was different.
“I remember a guy in fourth grade talking about my arm,” Justice said. “I explained to him what had caused it. I thought I did a good job explaining it. But then he called me some names.”
Justice has loved football for as long as he can remember. His dad, Dwight Justice, was a wide receiver at Millbrook High and N.C. Central.
Jackson said various youth leagues wouldn’t let her son play, but he believes she really didn’t want him to play football until he got to middle school.
Hitting the weights
Justice began a weight lifting program in the sixth grade at Wake Forest Middle. He is incredibly strong in his right arm, said Rod Sink, the Wakefield head football coach.
“He is something to watch in the weight room,” Sink said. “He works out with a 75-pound dumbbell. He can’t do some of the traditional lifts, but he is something with his right arm.”
Justice played on the Wake Forest High junior varsity last year as a sophomore and transferred to Wakefield for this season after the family moved.
“I just asked Coach Sink to give me a chance to show what I could do,” he said. “That’s all I wanted – a chance.”
He also was diagnosed with a learning disability in elementary school and he attends special classes because he has difficulty learning new things in a classroom setting.
“I learn the same things, just in a different way,” he said.
He wants to go to college and get an education.
“I believe I’ll do fine once I get adjusted to the college environment,” he said.
His mother said that her son has heard his entire life about what he can’t do. Telling him that he can’t succeed in college is not much different.
“People say that he can’t do this or do that because he is handicapped, but they don’t know my son. He is a phenomenal person,” Jackson said.
He came to Wakefield with the idea of being a leader. He believes he has a message that is beneficial for everyone.
“If you have a disability, don’t ever give up on yourself,” Justice said. “Always stay strong in your belief that you can achieve. Always be positive. Always smile. And if you decide to do something, give it your all.”
Right now, he can’t play football, but he is already talking about the rehab process. He expects to come back stronger and better.
“I am going to give it my all,” Justice said.