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The Antelope

The Antelope

Gus Gustafson returns to UNK ‘Fully Armed’ with advice

GRACE MCDONALD / ANTELOPE STAFF Despite facing adversity, Gus Gustafson inspired others with his love of sports.

Gus Gustafson’s right leg is two inches longer than his left leg, he wears a size 15 shoe and a nine and a half shoe, he has five toes on his left foot and three toes on his left foot and he is missing an arm.  

The speaker visited UNK last week to share with others how to “turn setbacks into comebacks.”

“We’ve all experienced challenges, and I’m here tonight to say that we have to embrace those challenges and truly make something good come out of every situation that we find ourselves in,” Gustafson said. 

While growing up in Lyons Nebraska, Gustafson suffered from a severe tractor accident at nine years old that caused him to lose his right arm, among other injuries.

“I don’t know where this came from, but I looked up at my mom, and I said, ‘Don’t cry mom. I’m going to be okay,’” Gustafson said. 

The surgeons mended his wounds, and after a lengthy stay in the hospital, Gustafson returned to the farm.

Despite doubts from others, Gustafson persevered to compete with his peers in baseball and basketball, until he surpassed them.

To demonstrate his abilities, Gustafson spun a basketball on each finger during his speech in the Ponderosa Room, and he also balanced the spinning basketball on a pencil.

His skills allowed him to play college basketball at UNK. Early in his Loper basketball experience, two knee injuries ended his career.

Gustafson sought out a new identity after leaving sports.

“The beautiful thing that I’ve been able to do is I fail forward,” Gustafson said. “I think that’s a lost art in our society is being okay with failing, but failing forward is learning through that journey.”

He focused on his studies, and he graduated from UNK as one of the top 15 marketing students in the nation. 

However, life was not done throwing obstacles at Gustafson. 

As a husband with three children, he suffered a stroke while out on a run. 

When he learned how to talk again, Gustafson travelled across the country for the last 26 years, sharing with others how he overcomes adversity on a daily basis. 

The Gus Gustafson “Fully Armed” event was funded by Loper Nights and sponsored by the Office of Student and Family Transitions. After being held online last year, UNK’s 28th annual Disability Awareness Week featured a series of speakers on campus. 

“It was very engaging and entertaining,” said Sarah Mattson, the assistant director of Disability Services for Students. “I think right now it’s a tricky time with the pandemic whether people are comfortable going to events and I think people have gotten out of habit of doing those things as well. But we had some good events and some great speakers that I hope students benefited from.”

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