Jimmy V Award winner Rob Mendez is an inspiration to us all

Life is synonymous with struggle; if you are alive, you will inevitably face plenty of it. Many of us become bogged down by it, and let it get the best of us. But every once in a while, a person comes along to reminds us that we need to be grateful for each and every gift we are given in life, and to never waste a moment taking those gifts for granted. Rob Mendez is one of those people.

Mendez, a junior varsity football coach at Prospect High School who was born without limbs, received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance Wednesday night at the ESPYs.

The award, which is named after the late North Carolina State men’s basketball coach and broadcaster Jimmy Valvano, is awarded annually to “a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination,” according to www.si.com. Valvano died from cancer in 1993.

Mendez, 31, was born without limbs as a result of a rare disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome. He is entering his second year as Prospect’s JV coach, which is located in Saratoga, California, just outside of San Jose.

“When you dedicate yourself to something and open your mind to different possibilities and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do, you really can go places in this world,” Mendez said during his acceptance speech.

The si.com article says Mendez learned the fundamentals of football from playing the Madden video game, and eventually worked his way up the coaching ranks at Prospect High School.

During Valvano’s iconic 1993 speech at the ESPYs, he said, “don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” In that vein, we would say Mendez is a perfect candidate for this award.

“Let me tell you — the best part about coaching, for me, is seeing someone’s potential, and making them realize what’s possible,” Mendez said. “So for anyone out there (who’s) not sure if they can do something — it could be in sports, it could be in your job, it could be in your life — whatever it is, I’m here to tell you that you can do it. You’ve got to be passionate. You’ve got to work at it. But it can happen. I’ve made it this far. Who says I can’t go farther? That’s my message. Who says I can’t? Nobody.”

We, and likely anyone else who watched Wednesday’s ESPY awards, were deeply touched by Mendez’s speech. We appreciate the reminder that we must always see the blessings we are granted in life — and that we have no excuse but to continue to fight for those we don’t.