Inspiring football coach wins ESPY award for perseverance

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Rob Mendez has been persevering his entire life.

Born without arms or legs, the South Bay high school football coach’s perseverance will be lauded in July when he receives a prestigious award during the ESPYS, an annual awards show that celebrates those in the sporting world.

“Those kids gave me a purpose.”

NBC Bay Area learned ESPN announced that Mendez is this year’s recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. He will be honored at the ESPYS on July 10.

Coach Rob Mendez, the head coach for the Prospect High School Junior Varsity football team, smiles after his team scored a touchdown during their home game against San Jose High School on September 21, 2018 in Saratoga, California.
Photo credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“The game has given me a life that nobody believes a man in a wheelchair born without arms and legs could have,” Mendez wrote in a letter to the game of football. “Together, we’ve proved all of them wrong. And it’s only the beginning.”

For more than a decade, Mendez spent his time on the sidelines serving as an assistant coach. That all changed this past year. As the head coach of the junior varsity team at Prospect High School in Saratoga, Mendez steered the Panthers to an 8-2 record and second-place finish in their conference.

Coach Rob Mendez, the head coach for the Prospect High School Junior Varsity football team, talks to his team in the locker room before their first game of the season against Santa Clara High School on August 24, 2018 in Saratoga, California.
Photo credit: Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“Those kids gave me a purpose,” Mendez wrote in his letter. “A feeling that I not only belonged but that I was their leader. 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.”


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