Fifteen-year-old Jarrius Robertson has been in and out of hospitals all of his life, and has still managed to wow sports fans everywhere with his upbeat, energetic attitude.
Now, the inspiring teen who delights fans and players on the sidelines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is being honored for his efforts with the ESPYs’ Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
Robertson, who battles a chronic liver disease, was presented the award on Wednesday by John Cena and made his way to the stage with the same charisma sports fans and players alike have come to love.
“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. These words by Jimmy V I have been living my entire life. The past few years have been a blessing for me and my family,” Jarrius said on stage alongside his parents, Jordy Robertson and Patricia Hoyal. “I have been doing things I never thought I could do before — and earning the Jimmy V award tonight is amazing … Lastly and not least my family. I want to thank them for being by my side and all the sacrifices to get me to where I am now.”
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The teen first caught the attention of the sports world in Dec. 2015 when he met Saints players at the city’s Ochsner Hospital for Children. He kept the athletes laughing, and a video of the encounter quickly went viral.
Robertson quickly became a fixture at Saints games and has even joined the team for practices, ESPN reports. As the boy rose to fame — stealing the show at February’s NBA all-star game and appearing on Good Morning America — his story of triumph came to light.
Robertson suffers from biliary atresia — a rare disease that affects his physical growth, according to The Undefeated. He has been in and out of hospitals since receiving his first liver transplant when he was just a year old.
He was in a medically-induced coma for a year, and has since undergone at least 36 surgeries — with a second liver transplant in April.
“He’s got the heart of a lion but the body of a baby,” his father, Jordy, told The Undefeated. “If there was a war right now, he’d say, ‘Dad, put me on the front line and let me go.’ He’s a brave person with courage and understanding.”
And on Wednesday, that courage was rewarded.
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Prior to the award ceremony, Robertson said he thought he was dreaming when he first learned that he’d be receiving the special award.
“The ESPYS? For real? The past two years have been a blessing in so many ways for me and my family,” he told ESPN in a statement. “I have been able to do things I never thought I would be able to do.”