Jamarion Styles, a Village Academy football player without hands, hopes to inspire others, spread positivity and follow in the footsteps of the Seattle Seahawks’ Shaquem Griffin

DELRAY BEACH — Amid the heat of a late-August afternoon football practice on an open field of grass, Jamarion Styles motions into the backfield.


Legs bent, Styles sets his feet in anticipation of the snap, narrowing his eyes on the line of scrimmage. It’s his upper body that sticks out, though.


Extending out the left sleeve of his jersey is an arm that cuts off at the elbow. On the right side, nothing.


The play starts, and Styles springs into action, darting to the right as the ball floats towards him. He pivots, turning his body to face the ball and quarterback who threw it, but the ball bounces off his chest and both he and the ball fall to the ground.


Immediately, the Village Academy junior with no hands, right arm or left forearm hears it from his coaches on the sideline. As punishment for not making the catch, Styles does a set of push-ups.


That’s how it is for Styles, a first-year player for the Tigers who made his tackle football debut Aug. 16 (he also plays basketball). He gets no special treatment and he wouldn’t have it any other way.


"I don’t want to be treated any different, that makes me feel some type of way actually," said Styles. "For every person, if they drop a pass you get down and do ten push-ups and there’s nothing different around here."


Styles had his left arm amputated just below the elbow and lost his right arm to a virus at eight months old. Growing up, he was treated differently because he has no hands.


"The environment was different with a lot of staring, but no problems were caused, just a lot of questions, but eventually I adapted to it," said Styles. "It still happens now, the staring, but I can’t control that so I just keep moving forward."


Football, and the expectations that come with it, are a welcome change of pace.


"He’s resilient, he’s a tough-minded kid and he can take the coaching," said Village Academy offensive coordinator Ian Headley, who admits that he’s really hard on Styles. "This is something that he wants to do, so he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there."


"I’m hard on all my guys, but I just want to let him know that the world’s not going to give you anything. No one really cares what disabilities you have, people are going to be expecting a result no matter what, so I’m just trying to get him in the mentality that you’ve got to get those results no matter what."


Headley has been a constant in Styles’ football journey, training him since he was in eighth grade. He also coached Styles when he tried out for, and made, the Epic Elite 7-on-7 football team.


"Coach Headley gave him an opportunity to show what he’s capable of, and a lot of other coaches didn’t give him that opportunity," said Harela Zafir, a team mom for the Epic Elite 7-on-7 team. "We welcomed him like our own, and we treat all our kids like they’re ours, and I think he knows that he’s no different."


Styles made the most of the opportunity, working hard to make an impression on college coaches at showcase camps and events.


"He went on the college tour and performed," said Headley. "He scored a touchdown in one of our tournaments, he did one-on-ones, and camped at Florida, Texas and Oklahoma State, so he’s been getting around trying to get his name out there."


It was Styles’ experience in 7-on-7 football that gave him the confidence to try and make the leap to tackle football.


"Last year I really thought about it," said Styles. "I’ve been playing 7-on-7 with Epic Elite so I said ‘hey, why not try tackle football and see how it goes.’"


His parents offered no objection to his new goal of joining his high school team.


"Everything I tell them, they have no problem with it," said Styles. "They’ll sign me up just as quick as I’d sign myself up."


Village Academy’s first-year head coach Gad Jacobs had heard from his coaches and players that Styles, a recent transfer from West Boca Raton, wanted to join the team.


"It was the same process, I went through things the same way," said Jacobs. "I said ‘hey, let me talk to his mom,’ and then I talked to him."


"The first interaction I had with him I realized that this kid is super passionate and he just loves sports, loves football, and he does not want to be treated any differently than anyone else, he’s just all about football."


After ensuring that Styles didn’t have an increased injury risk, the 16-year-old started practicing with the Tigers.


Jacobs and his staff worked to find the best positions on the field for Styles, and they eventually settled on having Styles practice at wide receiver, defensive back and on special teams.


"Sometimes he gets hard headed because he wants to, and can, do everything but we still want to find how we can put him in the best position," said Jacobs.


The Village Academy coaching staff started to incorporate the "Hawk tackle," similar to a rugby tackle and popularized by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, in practices and the team learned the technique. The tackling technique helps to utilize Styles’ shoulders when making a tackle.


Styles made his debut in the preseason Kickoff Classic, playing on special teams and lining up at wide receiver for a few snaps.


While he didn’t play in the Tigers’ regular-season opener two weeks ago — Village Academy didn’t play last week due to Hurricane Dorian — Styles is getting plenty of reps in practice. When he takes the field for a regular-season game, he’ll be ready.


Whenever that time does come, the 16-year-old plans to make the most of it, much like he did in 7-on-7, with that same hope of attracting the attention of college coaches.


"I would love it just to play college sports, football or basketball, it doesn’t matter," said Styles, who played basketball last season at West Boca and plans to do the same this year at Village Academy.


The 16-year-old says that he hopes to change minds and bring positivity to the world. He cites Shaquem Griffin, a one-handed linebacker drafted out of UCF in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, as his inspiration.


"Me and [Shaquem Griffin], we’re really the only ones who play football, I think, in our situation," said Styles.


He hopes to one day meet his idol but, in the meantime, Styles is busy blazing his own trail and inspiring others, even if he may not notice it in the moment.


"If he continues to do what he’s doing, he is inspiring," said Jacobs. "When stories like this go out, there’s another kid out there somewhere who’s going to see him and say ‘well hey, not only is there a Shaquem Griffin, but there’s also a Jamarion Styles,’ and that will push them to go forward."


rdipentima@pbpost.com