Ratliff was born with a leg defect that required corrective surgery at the age of three. Doctors broke and reset his leg, and they inserted metal pins that remain in his leg to this day. He had to wear a cast and leg brace for much of his early childhood. Ratliff recalls:
I had to wear a cast for a couple of weeks, and then I had to wear like the "Forrest Gump" brace for a year [click here
to see a scene from "Forrest Gump" that shows the kind of brace to which he's referring] ... I remember being back at home, chasing my brothers with my cast on, still trying to do the things I was doing before the surgery.
As he describes his leg surgery and recovery, Ratliff's characteristically constructive approach to life shines through. He's quick to downplay his disability and point out the advantages he had over other kids of his age:
But because I was always bigger than the other kids and taller than the other kids, I could do things they couldn't do. And plus, my mom never really made a big issue out of it. She always said that [I'm] special. We had this big three wheeler bike, but I was one of the only kids that could ride it because I had the long legs at my age.