South Walton freshman embraces disability, inspires teammates

Local Sports

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – South Walton defensive end Ethen Shaw is a star in the making. The freshman began the 2021 season on the JV team, but has since been moved up to varsity.

He’s been battling the odds on the football field long before this fall as Shaw was born without most of his fingers and the majority of his functioning ability in his left hand.

“As a kid like through elementary school and everything I used to hide it, and try to make people think I was just like them, you know what I mean?” Shaw said.

Being born different was something that took Shaw a very long time to get used to, but now that he’s in high school, he’s shifted his way of thinking tremendously.

He has even taken inspiration from another Panhandle athlete, Baker’s Kayleb Wagner, who was born with the same disability and broke one of Derrick Henry’s biggest state records this season.

“As I got older, I did see people like Kayleb and they just made me think that it is normal, you know what I mean, it’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to actually be proud of, to prove that I can do better than a lot of other people that don’t have my same disability,” Shaw said.

Since joining the Seahawks varsity squad, Shaw has continued to prove himself. In his first appearance on the field a few games ago, the 5’10”, 158 pound freshman put together a multiple sack performance.

“To Ethen he’s just another kid, you know, he’s just a football player, you know he doesn’t allow that disability to define who he just get’s out there and goes and make plays,” South Walton head football coach Phil Tisa said.

In the classroom, in the locker room and on the field, he’s a part of the family.

While football is a passion Shaw plans to pursue for as long as possible, the sense of belonging is what he cherishes most.

“Never think that you can’t do something, because that’s what I thought before I actually tried it, but I realized hey, I’m actually kind of good at this, and I kept pushing, kept working and then I’m here now,” Shaw said.

South Walton will host their final regular season game on Friday against Lighthouse Christian.

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