Buxton resident Eamon White created these specialized cleats for New York Jets player J.T. Hassell as part of the National Football League’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. Courtesy / Eamon White

PORTLAND — When Buxton artist Eamon White watched the Patriots-Jets football game Jan. 4, his focus was not on the plays that led to New England’s 28-14 win but rather on the footwear of one of the New York players.

White had added his artistic touch to J.T. Hassell’s cleats as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.

“Players have had artists put cleats together to represent a cause or organization,” said White, a 2007 Portland High School graduate who coaches football and also works in special education in the Scarborough school district.

White

Hassell, a Jets special teams player who was born with only two fingers on his left hand, wanted his custom cleats to bring awareness to the Lucky Fin Project. The Michigan-based nonprofit over the last 10 years has provided families with medical resources and education on limb differences and has raised money for prosthetics and to send children to specialized camps.

“What they do as far as helping other people and kids, I just fell in love with,” Hassell said. “I always told myself if I ever got in a position of leadership or where my voice could be heard, I wanted to give back. I want to be that motivating person that I didn’t have growing up.”

Hassell has had seven tackles in seven NFL games – one this season with the Jets and six last season with the Cleveland Browns. He also blocked a punt this season.

White, who has coached high school and college football since graduating from Merrimack College in 2013, got in touch with Hassell after asking a sports agent if any of his players were participating in the cleats campaign.

“J.T. messaged me back. He loved my work and said let’s work on a pair together,” White said.

White received Hassell’s cleats in mid-December and four days later returned them to him completed. The green to black fade in the design reflects the Jets’ colors and features the Lucky Fin Project logo.

“They meant a lot to me,” Hassell said.

He will be auctioning the cleats to benefit Lucky Fin Project.

Molly Stapelman, who started Lucky Fin in honor of her daughter Ryan, who was born with only a thumb on her right hand, said Hassell’s contribution to the cause “is really special.”

“It helps to raise the visibility of the organization and awareness about the limb-different community,” Stapelman said. “Being that J.T. himself was born with only two fingers on his left hand, I think he understands the stigma that can come with living with a physical difference, as well as knowing how much harder one might have to prove themselves as capable.”

White first got into designing artistic footwear during a 2013 internship with ISlide, a customized sandal company in Boston when he designed sandals for Jerod Mayo, a former linebacker and current linebacker coach for the Patriots.

A digital design major in college, he got back into his art last year, especially after creating a portrait of George Floyd in the hope of using art to create peace and unity.

White has seen a lot on the football field as a player and a coach, but he said there was nothing like seeing his artwork on the feet of an NFL player.

“He was running down the field with my cleats on. It was awesome,” he said.

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