The bond between brothers is a special one.
Usually, they’re the first person you ever experience competition with. You’re in the backyard and all of a sudden, one looks to the other and says, “I bet you can’t beat me in a race.”
You both line up, the countdown begins, and then you’re off. And just like that, you’ve completed what would be the first of possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of micro-competitions between the two of you throughout your lives together.
This was likely quite similar to the relationship between Chargers fullback Gabe Nabers and his younger brother, Zach. They probably played sports and participated in numerous activities together while they were kids growing up in Georgia, slowly and consistently building a bond that only those with siblings could understand.
But that rosy-shaded time of their lives was abruptly interrupted by one devastating and life-changing event.
When Zach Nabers was 11 years old, he sustained a severe injury to his arm during a boating accident that would inevitably call for his arm to be amputated from just under his elbow. For a kid who was extremely active in sports with notable athletic ability, you can only imagine the type of affect this could have on their mental state.
If it was any other kid, maybe this would have sent them down a completely different path in life. But not Zach. He had dreams and he knew, regardless of what had happened to him, that he was going to achieve them.
Zach’s path to recovery eventually led him to an organization called NubAbility, a non-profit dedicated to helping limb-different children (congenital or traumatic amputees) regain their confidence through the aid of camps, coaches, and mentors who have also shared their same experiences as limb different-individuals. The organization was started by Sam Kuhnert, a former pitcher for Greenville University (IL) who starred for the Panthers despite being born with one hand.
“The NubAbility® Athletics Foundation exists to encourage, inspire, instruct limb different youth by getting them out of the stands, off the bench and into mainstream sports. Imagine the power of having a mentor who looks like you. #DontNeed2” — NubAbility Mission Statement
Zach’s journey with NubAbility slowly turned from camper to coach over the next few years. During that time, Gabe would also devote his time as a volunteer alongside his brother. With invaluable help of his coaches, friends, and his entire support system, Zach would go on to achieve his dream of playing college basketball when he signed his letter of intent to play for Valdosta State University in Georgia.
It was a tremendous moment. It would be for anyone, but especially a kid who could have simply taken the easy way out and accepted the presumed limitations placed upon him following the accident. Zach, Gabe, and everyone around him are certainly glad he didn’t.
Seeing how much NubAbility was able to do for his brother over the years, of course Gabe wanted to try and repay them in any way he could. For starters, he began to volunteer as a coach alongside Zach whenever possible. Of course, life got pretty hectic for Gabe when he got to Florida State and became a key contributor for the Seminoles, but carving out time for his younger brother and the organization that transformed his life never really seemed that difficult.
After a noted career at FSU, Gabe achieved his own childhood dream of making it to the NFL. Even at the peak of his own journey, he made sure that NubAbility wasn’t far behind him.
Every year, the NFL holds their “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative in which each player has the chance to customize their own pair of cleats — usually with some homage to their own charitable organization or just another charity close to their heart — that will eventually be worn prior to a select game before being auctioned off to raise money for the represented group. It’s an excellent way for players to bring awareness to a number of issues that may be affecting all kinds of people, but it’s even better for the lesser-known organizations who already struggle with getting their name cause out in front of the masses.
So when Gabe slapped a “NubAbility Athletics” logo on the side of his cleats, along with the organization’s personal hashtag “#DontNeed2”, Kuhnert couldn’t have been more excited it. After all, his calling to this cause, which initially started as a vision from God to help those around him, was all of a sudden on one of the biggest stages in the entire world.
“Ever since I first heard of the NFL’s initiative of “My Cause, My Cleats” I have dreamed that one day NubAbility Athletics would be represented helping us spread awareness and find more kids,” Kuhnert said in a Facebook post back in November 2020. “On week 14 Gabe Nabers the older brother of NubAbility camper turned coach Zach Nabers who is also the starting fullback for the Los Angeles Chargers will be rocking these bad boys and then auctioning them off with benefits going directly to creating more opportunities for NubAbility kids!”
Most recently, Gabe was able to help sponsor NubAbility’s Ninth Annual #DontNeed2 All Sports Camp held in DuQuoin, Illinois, earlier this summer. With his help, dozens of limb different kids were able to experience the amazing sport of football for what may have been the very first time. I can only imagine how special that moment likely was for so many kids who may have previously viewed the sport as one that’s nearly impossible to play when limb different.
Thank you @gabe_nabers for helping to get limb-different kids onto the football field.#GabeNabers #LAChargers#YOUmakeitpossible— NubAbility Athletics (@NubAbility) August 24, 2021
Join us for the next 3 weeks as we thank the businesses & individuals who supported our camp fundraiser. We are grateful!#NubAbility #DontNeed2 pic.twitter.com/ecEI917gmV
As an NFL player, at the top of your profession, it’s easy to take your health and physical gifts for granted. But for Gabe, his way of staying grounded is simply looking over at his brother and best friend. Knowing that Zach didn’t just “get over” his injury, but took it and morphed it into a springboard which he used to launch himself into a thriving and fulfilling life, is all the elder Nabers needs.
If this cause speaks to you in any way and you’d like to find out how to donate, you can get involved right here.