- Incoming Northwestern running back Albert Kunickis has thrived despite only having one hand
- The 6-foot-3 high school senior was born without his right hand
- Kunickis’ story is an inspirational one that all college football fans must learn
Those who obsessively track college football recruiting and where the country’s top prospects might land might not know who Albert Kunickis, a young running back from Illinois, is on the eve of this year’s Early Signing Period. Even the most devoted Northwestern football fans likely need a refresher on their incoming offensive playmaker.
Despite the lack of stars on his recruiting profile, the Northwestern commit is easily one of this cycle’s best stories.
Incoming Northwestern running back Albert Kunickis has thrived despite only having one hand
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Kunickis brings instant size to the running back room. He’s a powerful rusher who carved through defenses at Lemont (Ill.) High School this fall and rightfully earned interest from respected college programs.
Kunickis, who thrived as an all-around weapon in high school, only has one hand; his right arm stops at his elbow. However, his play more than speaks for itself, and Northwestern’s football staff didn’t need long to accept that fact.
According to Rivals, Kunickis attended a one-day prospect camp on June 24. His play that day impressed Northwestern coaches, and after the camp’s events ended, he received a tour of the Wildcats’ facility. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald even privately met with him in his office.
The Wildcats later offered Kunickis a PWO (preferred walk-on) offer. He accepted and will enroll at the school in 2022.
“At first I didn’t think I would get a chance to play D-I football. Luckily, the Northwestern coaches reached out and gave me this opportunity.”Albert Kunickis
Kunickis ran for 1,393 yards (9.1 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns to lead Lemont to an 11-1 record and the 6A state quarterfinals. The senior also hauled in 14 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He even handled kicking duties.
As a walk-on, Kunickis will not count toward Northwestern’s scholarship limit, and the school will likely not announce him as part of its official signing class. However, he’ll nonetheless be a part of the incoming group of Wildcats.
Kunickis’ story is among the most inspiring you’ll hear this college football cycle
College football recruiting sites use the star system to dictate how good a prospect is — and, by extension, what their chances of reaching the NFL are. For example, Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Bryce Young was a 5-star recruit, the highest rating a player can earn.
Kunickis doesn’t have any stars on his RIvals page. He’s yet to earn a 247Sports profile, although that will likely change when he enrolls at the school and is listed on the official roster.
Still, Kunickis doesn’t need stars or a spot at the All-American Bowl. The fact he’s joining a Power 5 football program, one that has ended the season ranked five times in the last 10 years, is a great story in and of itself. He’s a proven running back who is excited about what he’ll bring to Northwestern.
“I feel as if I run with heart and passion,” he told Rivals. “Every carry I get, I try to (get) the most yards possible.”
Kunickis doesn’t want to be known as the player with one hand. He’s a running back ready to win a national championship and help Northwestern rebound from a 3-9 showing in 2021.
Shaquem Griffin blazed a trail for Kunickis to hopefully follow
When Kunickis first takes the field, he won’t be the first player with one arm to participate in a college football game. In fact, UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (who had his left hand amputated at 4 years old) earned All-American honors in 2017 and spearheaded the Knights’ turnaround.
Griffin never let his disability stop him from achieving everything he hoped to do at UCF. The Seattle Seahawks drafted the two-time All-AAC selection in 2018, and he spent parts of three seasons with the organization.
Along the way, Griffin inspired football fans who quickly learned to see him as more than a player with one hand. He wasn’t Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker with a disability. He was Shaquem Griffin, one of the country’s best defensive players and a future NFL draft pick.
It is way too early to know if Kunickis will attain All-Big Ten status, let alone reach the NFL. However, Griffin proved what can happen when any player focuses on their dreams and doesn’t let anything get in their way.