Like Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, who lost his left arm after an ugly car crash. Or this former LSU lineman, who had to amputate his leg when a hunting dog stepped on his shotgun, firing shells at him. Gut-wrenching, horror-movie type stuff like that happens far too often.
Something similar happened to former University of Georgia and former NFL wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who was forced to amputate every finger but his thumb on his left hand following a scary ATV accident in April 2017.
As a wide receiver, whose hands are his money-makers, the accident effectively ended his football career. But what it didn’t put a stop to was his positive attitude, and he’s even gained more appreciation for the intangible things in life.
This is his story.
Mohamed Massaquoi Football Career
Before he was joy-riding on ATVs, Massaquoi was a stud for the University of Georgia Bulldogs from 2005-08.
With Matthew Stafford throwing him passes, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native racked up impressive numbers over his UGA career. He finished with 158 receptions for 2,282 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, including 920 yards his senior year.
Massaquoi’s gawdy senior season opened NFL scouts’ eyes. The Cleveland Browns selected him in the second round (50th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft, and he immediately made an impact on the field.
As a rookie in Cleveland, the 6-foot-2 wide receiver led the Browns with 624 receiving yards. The second-round pick posted a few more solid seasons there, tallying 1,745 yards and seven touchdowns over his four-year stay.
Massaquoi signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013 and later with the New York Jets that year, but was released on both occasions.
Four years later, his life changed forever.
How Did Mohamed Massaquoi Lose His Hand?
In April of 2017, Massaquoi and some friends were riding ATVs. The 31-year-old took a sharp turn and flipped the vehicle on his left hand. The scene that he and his friends was, well, gruesome.
I’ll let him describe it using words from his video in the Player’s Tribune, in which he told the story for the first time:
“Making a turn, I take the turn too sharply, and before I know it, my ATV loses control,” Massaquoi says in the video. “The next thing I feel is something that feels like an explosion, like an explosion just went off in my hand. I’m in shock, so I don’t feel it, but I’m very aware of what’s going on because there’s blood everywhere.”
“Now, what I’m seeing and what my friends are seeing are completely different,” Massaquoi said. “They’re seeing what actually happened, I’m seeing what I think happened. I’m thinking that I just broke my hand. My friend, on the other hand, thinks that my hand just went through a meat grinder or something like that. Meanwhile, you can see the panic and the fear in everybody, so you know it’s not good.”
That meat grinder line…sheesh. Massaquoi was flown in a helicopter to the hospital, where doctors tried to salvage what remained of his extremity. They pieced his fingers back together but ultimately decided which fingers couldn’t be saved.
All of them, except for his thumb.
Ten months later, Massaquoi revealed the gory details and a shiny prosthetic device to take the place of his four fingers that perished that day.
Though he says he can’t feel anything in the metal device, he still feels with his thumb, something he now appreciates more than he ever got the chance to when he was effortlessly reeling in catches in the NFL or at the University of Georgia.
“There’s an adjustment there to say, ‘This part of me is no longer (there),’ but are a lot of other parts that are still there … This just gives you a perspective of how precious life is, how fast things can change,” Massaquoi said. “You go from joyriding to flying in a helicopter finding out your hand will be amputated.”
“I guess when I look at my hand, I’m just thankful,” the former Browns receiver said. “I’m thankful for the process. I’m thankful for the little things in life. I’m thankful for family, for friendship, thankful for real things.”
Sure, maybe Massaquoi lost feeling in his left hand. But he never lost his beautiful spirit.