In most ways, Aaron Cwiek is like most other dominant left guards. He's big -- the senior stands 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds -- and phenomenally athletic, as he has proven time and time again on the football field and basketball court.
Despite his more traditional characteristics, Cwiek's ability to compete on the varsity stage for Livonia Clarenceville (Mich.) High's sports teams is positively inspiring for a singular reason: As chronicled by the Detroit Free Press, Cwiek pulls off all his inspiring feats while missing most of his left arm.
"When I get in my stance, I always see them looking over at it like: 'Is this guy for real?'" Cwiek told the Free Press' Mick McCabe. "That game, I don't think he was trying as hard as he could. I pancaked him on the first play. As the game went on, he tried harder and harder."
Cwiek was born with a blood clot that cut off circulation to most of his left arm, leading to four surgeries just days after he was born to cut off more and more his arm.
Without those amputations, the blood clot easily could have travelled to Cwiek's heart and killed him. They didn't, and he emerged with a passion for athletics fostered by his older brother, Dan. The two played sports together throughout their elementary school years, and only had one tough moment when he was in fourth grade and other kids began staring at his arm.
After his parents convinced Cwiek to put the incident behind him, he flourished. The Cwiek's searched for advice from other parents whose children had been born without one of their limbs, and were directed to legendary pitcher Jim Abbott's parents, who gave the Cwiek's lasting advice.
"We taught him right from the get-go that there's nothing he can't do," Chuck Cwiek, Aaron's father, told the Free Press. "And thank God he has the perfect attitude and the perfect personality for this case. Kids can get locked into themselves and feel sorry for themselves, and he never did."
Instead, he developed a sense of humor about his left arm. Aaron Cwiek reportedly happily goes by the nicknames of "Nub" and "Nubby." He even tried to take off his prosthetic arm and throw it into the middle of a dance floor when the disc jockey at a wedding played the hokey pokey and told the crowd to put your left arm in.
As for his coach, Livonia Clarenceville's Ken Frye said Cwiek fit in from day one.
"It wasn't a problem," Frye told the Free Press of Cwiek. "He had a good attitude and was really positive. He's a big kid, and when he puts his body in the way, he does very well for us. He has a little bit of trouble on defense because of tackling, but we do put him in at defensive tackle, and he can do the job."