A California high school football coach who was born without arms and legs due to a rare disorder gave a heart-wrenching speech at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night.
Rob Mendez received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the Los Angeles awards ceremony. He told the crowd it was an “honor” for him to be at the event and he thanked the game of football for “allowing me to be a part of a team.”
“The reality is, I am here and if there’s any message I want to give you guys tonight, is to look at me … when you dedicate yourself to something … and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do, you really can go places in this world,” Mendez said.
The 30-year-old coach then vowed that he wasn’t finished with his journey yet.
Mendez is the junior varsity coach at Prospect High School in Saratoga. He served as the team’s manager as a freshman and then was named quarterbacks coach before becoming JV coach.
He wrote a thank you letter to ESPN ahead of the ceremony, speaking about leading his team to the conference championship game, where they lost.
“We lost the conference championship game in a 3-0 heartbreaker,” Mendez wrote in his letter. “But more important to me was what happened off the field and on the sidelines. Those kids gave me a purpose. A feeling that I not only belonged but that I was their leader.”
He added: “Most everywhere I go, people look down on me. They stare at me. They feel pity. On the football field, with my team by my side, they didn’t see me as a man in a wheelchair. They saw their football coach, a man who believed in them, who taught them about the importance of school, family and living your life the right way. And they all bought in.”