While a lot of people might know that University of Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli is a great football player, many people might not know that he has a finger missing on his lefthand glove.
Fumagalli had his left index finger amputated when he was younger, when a condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome caused poor circulation to his finger. While ABS is a treatable condition, it often results in the loss of body parts such as fingers, toes and in some cases, may cause full amputation of arms or legs.
Fumagalli grew up without his left-hand finger, so for him it was nothing different or spectacular, and certainly wasn’t something that he would consider a disability. When he started playing football, Fumagalli didn’t let his missing appendage slow him down, and certainly didn’t try to draw any attention to it.
When Fumagalli was in high school, he managed to have a great career with Waubonsie Valley High School, earning 1,770 yards on 64 carries while playing tight end. He also would play defense at times, earning a grand total 172 tackles and 4 sacks in four years.
Even with this impressive performance, Fumagalli would still be considered a 3-star scout by 247 sports. He would wind up being ranked No. 37 tight end in the 2013 class of recruits, and it is possible that his finger is one of the reasons why he was not ranked higher on this list.
Eventually, Fumagalli would commit to Wisconsin during his senior year of high school, and would earn a walk-on scholarship during his second year with the Badgers. Red-shirting in 2013, Fumagalli would earn a letter for his performance with the team in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
While many might look at Fumagalli’s missing finger as a disability, it is not a word choice that the tight end likes to use to describe his condition. He believes that his missing finger is actually a blessing in disguise rather than a burden he has to live with.
“[My finger’s] definitely not a disability,” Fumagalli said. “If anything it’s helped me grow through some sports, and even made me better.”
Of course, many have tried to heighten the experience that Fumagalli has gone through because of missing finger. According to Fumagalli, some have tried to make him seem heroic for his missing appendage, but that is not how he likes to look at it.
To him, his finger is just simply something that he does not have, but it has not impacted his playing. Considering that this finger has been missing since his birth, Fumagalli learned to play football the same way that any of his teammates did — there were no special treatment that was needed for him to learn football.
While Fumgalli might not consider his missing finger a major disadvantage, he does realize that how he handles himself with his absent appendage has inspired other younger athletes. Fumagalli said young fans have reached out to him on social media, thanking him for setting an example for kids who also have missing appendages.
“I’ve had some people reach out to me on social media,” Fumagalli said. “It’s cool. Just the way that they reach out to me. I try to do the most I can for them. Just saying ‘keep pushing’ and stuff like that.”
When you look at Fumagalli’s career stats at Wisconsin, it is incredible to believe someone with a missing finger has now gone on to be one of the most successful tight ends in college football. What is even more impressive is the fact that Fumagalli remains a humble, down to earth person who rarely gives a second thought to all of the things that he has managed to accomplish with only nine fingers.
Even though it might seem like Fumagalli’s fight to play despite his missing finger is over, there is still one more hurdle that stands in his way. Fumagalli has been considered one of the highest draft prospects for 2018, but it is possible that teams will be deterred by his missing finger.
The NFL, while they might like to consider themselves to be open minded, tend to be rather old-fashioned when it comes to their standards for players. There have been few players in the NFL who have played with missing fingers, any many of those people lost their fingers during their NFL careers, not before their careers began.
Many NFL scouts and analysts have already begun to discuss how they believe a missing finger could contribute to his performance in the NFL, specifically focusing on the belief that NFL tight ends need to have all ten fingers to play at their best. Some scouts even told NFL.com that it would be a situation that would need to be scrutinized.
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Fumagalli isn’t worried about all of the speculation that surrounds his potential professional career, knowing that he has built a football resume that speaks for itself. If a team does have any questions about his missing finger, Fumagalli is perfectly happy to confirm to them that it is no big deal.
“I’m not worried about [a missing finger impacting my potential NFL career],” Fumagalli said. “I’ve played football my whole life and it has never really been an issue for me and no one has ever made it an issue. When that opportunity comes, I am willing to answer any questions that might come up, but I don’t think it will be an issue.”
For now, there might be a missing finger spot on Fumagalli’s left-hand glove — but there is certainly nothing missing from his game. Wisconsin has been lucky to have Fumagalli for the past five years, and any NFL team would be lucky to have him on their team.