Rohan Murphy isn’t afraid to fail—legs or no legs.
Born with a very severe defect that led to a double leg amputation at age 4, the social media influencer and motivational speaker knows better than anyone what it means to have the odds stacked against him. Murphy was the only person in his high school of 1,200 students in a wheel chair—not to mention the only African-American in his graduating class. But his disability doesn’t keep him from taking chances and seizing opportunities.
“I tell young people I speak to, ‘Don’t be afraid of failing.’ To me, losing at something in life doesn’t make you a loser. Failing at something in life doesn’t make you a failure,” Murphy says. “What makes you those things is being a quitter and giving up on something—not having that courage to take that initial risk to reach greatness.”
A lover of sports, Murphy’s options were limited. In eighth grade, his physical education teacher, Ron Croteau, encouraged him to go out for the wrestling team. “At first, I thought he was crazy. But he didn’t give up on me,” Murphy says, laughing. “Finally, in the eighth grade, I found a sport that I could play.” Murphy promised his teacher that when he got to high school, he would go out for the wrestling team.
His mom, however, was worried. “She said, ‘Rohan, you’re going to be out there wrestling kids with legs. You’re going to be at a huge disadvantage. Aren’t you worried? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to lose?’ I told her I wasn’t afraid to fail,” Murphy recalls.
Murphy made the team, but he didn’t know what to expect from his teammates the first time he crawled onto the wrestling mat, sans prosthetic legs. Something amazing happened, Murphy says. No one bullied him or made fun of him. Instead, every single one of his teammates shook his hand and welcomed him to the team.
“And for the very first time in my life, outside of my own family, I felt acceptance and I felt that I actually belonged somewhere,” Murphy says. “I tell people that story all the time, too, because I think in life, we all need to try to be a little bit more inclusive rather than exclusive. That’s not just an anti-bullying stance. To me, being inclusive, that’s a human stance.”