Rob Mendez, Football Coach with No Limbs, Honored with Jimmy V Perseverance Award at 2019 ESPYS
A California football coach who was born without arms or legs was honored for his tenacity and determination at the 2019 ESPY Awards on Wednesday.
Rob Mendez accepted the Jimmy V award for perseverance at the Los Angeles ceremony.
“It is an honor to be here tonight,” said Mendez, 30, before thanking his parents, his students and more influential people in his life. “I also want to thank the game of football for all it has given me, for allowing me to be apart 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.”
“I’m not done yet,” promised Mendez. “I made it this far, who says I can’t go further? Who says I can’t? Nobody.”
Mendez was born with tetra-amelia syndrome. He long loved football and learned about the sport by playing Madden.
He served as the team manager of his high school football team as only a freshman, and eventually helmed the team’s quarterbacks as coach.
In a thank you letter to the sport published by ESPN ahead of the awards show, Mendez wrote, “The game has given me a life that nobody believes a man in a wheelchair born without arms and legs could have. Together, we’ve proved all of them wrong. And it’s only the beginning.”
Mendez said that after he was named coach of Saratoga, California’s Prospect High School’s junior varsity team, they finished second in the conference.
“We lost the conference championship game in a 3-0 heartbreaker,” Mendez wrote. “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 continued, “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.”