MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — If you’ve seen Harlem running back Jahmani Muhammad play for the Huskies over the past year plus, you know he’s a special talent. He also has a special number one fan, his father Steven.

Last season Jahmani Muhammad led the NIC-10 in rushing as a sophomore with almost 1600 yards. He also returned several kicks for touchdowns. His type of speed and quickness are rare at this level. When he pops a big play, it’s something to see.

His father Steven was also a starting running back for Rockford Auburn’s sophomore team in the mid-1980s. 

“1986 I graduated. I played football there for a couple years back when they had Ken Barnes. Coach Barnes was there. Coach (Bill) Cossey.”

So did Steven have the same type of speed that his son has?

“Well, I’d like to think I did (laughs), but he’s obviously been blessed with a talent way beyond what I had.”

Steven Muhammad gave up football to pursue his other love, being a drummer in a band. He also was a barber, but he says that all changed in 2012.

“I didn’t know quite what was going on, but I was getting weakness in my left arm and left leg. Then it moved to my right arm and my right knee. I went to the doctor, and they weren’t quite sure what was going on, but later after a few tests I was diagnosed with what’s called Transverse Myelitis inflammation in the spinal cord.” 

Steven suffered nerve damage in his neck. He has lost the use of his arms and his hands ever since then.

“So now I have no use of my arms although I can feel them. I can feel the touch, but I just can’t, I have no mobility.”

Although his legs are fine, Steven uses a wheelchair because he can’t afford to fall without the use of his arms to break his fall.

He attends every Harlem football game watching from field level in his wheelchair, and he attends most practices.

“Every practice that I can make it to I’m here. I don’t want to miss a moment.”

Steven says Jahmani was a very little boy when Steven’s physical challenges began.

“It was tough because he went from seeing dad strong to seeing dad having to have help to do everything. As you can well imagine, I can’t feed myself, but they stepped up, my children, Jahmani especially. It was an adjustment, but he could get me something to drink, if I needed water, whatever he could do at the time he would help me along. He would even try to put my shoes on.”

Do you think him witnessing how hard you’ve worked at overcoming this challenge, do you think a little of that has rubbed off on him?

“Absolutely,” said Steven. “I think it’s developed in him a certain resilience and toughness that you don’t give up. You fight hard, and most importantly take nothing for granted.”

Jahmani says he has learned a lot from his dad.

“Keep moving. Don’t let adversity take over. Just keep pushing. Keep a good mindset.”

When you’re out there busting through a hole, sprinting down the field, how often do you think, ‘I kind of want to do this for my dad?’ ‘I really want to do this for dad?

“All the time. I get excited. I see a big run, I’m just running then when I score I just, I feel real happy about it. I know he’s sitting over there cheering for me in the back of the end zone, so it just means a lot to me.”

Steven can hardly contain his excitement when his son makes a highlight play. “Hey man, I want to stand up. (laughs) And I want to jump out of the chair and run down there with him. It’s very exciting. I’m an extremely proud dad.”

NOTE: Steven Muhammad also coaches youth football despite his disability. He coaches for Specialty Screw United at Lutheran, but he’s taking a break from that right now so he can spend more time following his son’s football career.

Also, Steven’s wife and Jahmani’s mother Sonja has been huge in helping to mold Jahmani into a hardworking, caring young man, and in aiding Steven in his physical challenges.

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