As most of you know, I am not a big sports person.
Yes, I like the Atlanta Braves and of course the Atlanta Falcons. I even watch the Masters every year — well, at least some of it. But I didn’t attend a college with a football team and though I watch certain sports games when asked (and my husband does), sporting events are not something I necessarily look forward to. So, it is somewhat surprising I stumbled upon watching part of the ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) Award show and saw an amazing man and heard some of his story.
Rob Mendez was awarded the Jimmy V Perseverance Award on the ESPY’s and his short acceptance speech was incredibly inspiring. Mendez was born without arms or legs due to a rare congenital disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome.
His mother found out about her son’s disorder when she was eight months pregnant. The doctors told the expectant parents the prognosis for their new baby was not good. In fact, the doctors said most babies with this rare disorder either didn’t usually survive birth or if they did, didn’t survive more than a few hours. Can you even imagine what those parents were going through hearing this?
Despite all odds against him, baby Rob was born without arms and legs, but otherwise, a very healthy baby.
I watched several documentary-type video clips of Rob and his parents being interviewed and it was impossible not to cry.
It also confirmed my belief that miracles are possible. Rob’s father talked about how he wondered why this happened and how he had no idea how he would be able to take care of his son. But he also said what a happy a baby and child Rob was — a recollection Rob’s mother Josie echoed.
The videos I saw of little Rob were compelling and tore at my heart. To see his sweet face and laugh, often rolling around, was just precious.
Rob became infatuated with football at an early age learning to play the video game Madden, using his chin and collarbone to control the controller. Years later, when Rob’s friends tried out and joined the football team in high school, Rob became the manager of the team. Although he longed to play the sport, he was thrilled to be a part of the team as the manager.
After bringing numerous plays to the team (many of which he learned from his Madden video gaming experience), Mendez went on to become the coach for the quarterbacks on the team. There was no doubt in this young man’s mind that he had found his calling in life — and coaching football was that calling.
For years Mendez worked at different high schools as an assistant coach for various football teams, but a year ago he was offered (and of course accepted) the position of head coach of the junior varsity football team at Prospect High School in California.
When Mendez was given his award on the ESPY’s, he was given a standing ovation. I loved that the first person he thanked was his mother. Next, he thanked his father and then his grandparents. I love that his family is/was so important to him. I also love that Mendez took this very public opportunity to thank, in his words, “Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.”
Mendez does not want to be a motivational speaker, even though when you hear him speak and see what he role models, it is easy to see why he could be. His love is for football and the team he is coaching and mentoring. He comes across as someone you would immediately see past his lack of limbs and see completely for the amazing and capable person he is.
I love reading about and learning from inspiring people such as Rob Mendez. You can watch all about him online. Check him out on YouTube and other online sources.
I can only imagine what a source of inspiration he is for his team members and all who cross his path. I believe we are all here on Earth for a reason and it’s always refreshing when you see someone who knows what their reason for being here is.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.