Rob Mendez and Brian Lammi first met in March 2019 at Donald Driver’s Driven to Achieve Awards event in Milwaukee. A week or two later, the Gilroy-born Mendez reached out to Lammi for advice after a movie producer asked to meet with Mendez, whose life had been turned upside down after he was profiled in a ESPN Sports Center featured segment a month before.
“He called and said, ‘Hey, a movie producer wants to come and meet with me. Could you guys help me because I’m not sure how this all works,'” said Lammi, who became Mendez’s marketing agent shortly thereafter. “I was in Florida at the time, and said, ‘Alright, let’s do this.’ Donald and I both flew out to Oakland to meet the movie producer and Rob. That movie is actually not happening, but ever since that day it’s remarkable all the different things coach Rob has been able to experience.”
Of that, there is no doubt. To say life has been an exhilarating ride for Mendez in the last year would be a vast understatement. From the radio and TV interviews to the speaking engagements to spending time with various NFL and MLB teams, the last 13 months has been particularly fruitful for the 32-year-old Mendez as his profile has risen.
The amazing thing is, he’s not done yet. Not even close. “Who Says I Can’t? Nobody!” has now been trademarked by Mendez. The phrase took off when Mendez said those words to end his speech at last year’s ESPYs in which he won the prestigious Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
A book on Mendez’s life is scheduled to be released some time in 2021. The speaking engagements will continue, because his story will never get old.
Born without arms and legs, Mendez worked for several years as an assistant football coach at the junior varsity level before finally getting the coveted head coaching title he had always wanted when Prospect High tabbed him to be its junior varsity coach in the summer of 2019.
After two successful seasons coaching the junior varsity football team, Mendez plans to take the next step and become a head coach at the varsity level—for a program in San Diego.
“I feel I’m ready to take on a varsity team,” said Mendez, who currently lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend. “I wanted to come down (and eventually make the move) to San Diego and see what I could make of it and jump on this opportunity.”
Mendez said he was offered the offensive coordinator position at Francis Parker School in San Diego, but that he needed more time to make a decision. It’s likely Mendez will get interviews with at least a handful of other schools in the coming months, especially when the coronavirus pandemic passes and social distancing guidelines get relaxed. Mendez was thankful to Prospect for giving him his first head coaching job, but he realized it was time to move on.
“As much as I love that program because that program has done so much for me, in the back of my mind all I could think about the whole off-season was moving up to coach at the varsity level,” he said. “I didn’t want to be coaching JV football anymore. I would like to be a varsity head coach and win a championship some day.”
Once the 2019 season ended, Mendez estimated he was on the road 21 days out of the month lasting through February. He spent time with the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers and Houston Astros, and went on several TV talk shows, including the “Rachael Ray Show” and “Get Up.” Mendez delivered speeches at Microsoft, the U.S. Postal Service and several other companies both in California and across the nation.
“He had been on a pretty astounding streak,” said Lammi, who is the president and CEO of Lammi Sports Management. “A few months ago, he was at his peak with four national speaking engagements in two weeks. I think people are really excited to see and hear his story first hand. I think the highlight for him was going on the ‘Rachael Ray Show’ and sharing his experience.”
Another highlight was being a guest on ESPN’s morning sports show, “Get Up.” Mendez has been a big fan of Mike Greenberg, who is the host of the show.
“Mike Greenberg is one of my favorite sports anchors since high school,” Mendez said. “He used to have a morning (radio) show with Mike Golic called ‘Mike and Mike.’ I got to be invited on his show in August, and it was pretty cool. Just to be on that show was pretty epic because I watch that show everyday.”
Lammi Sports Management has a who’s who clientele list, featuring pro athletes and retired pro athletes, dancers, models, coaches, former coaches, Olympians, media personalities, music artists and comedians. Every client on the Lammi Sports Management website has a title, but only one person has their description as “inspirational figure.” That would be Mendez.
“Donald saw the ESPN documentary and was inspired by Rob’s story,” Lammi said. “Like most people who meet coach Rob, I was inspired by his story to impact others and change lives. I’m really impressed by his energy, positive outlook and his goal to always overcome his obstacles. And I think that is a powerful story that can be shared with people everywhere.”
Lammi has been lauded for his indefatigable work ethic and ability to give his clients a broad scope of opportunities, especially once their playing days are over. One only has to look at Mendez and see that Lammi develops relationships with his clients before putting them in a great position to capitalize on their talent and story.
“I must give credit to Donald Driver who first saw coach Rob’s story and wanted to honor him at the Driven to Achieve Awards,” Lammi said, referring to the former NFL standout wide receiver of the Green Bay Packers. “You realize some of these opportunities have been changing his life, but all credit goes to him 100 percent. We’re just honored to be going along for the ride and to be a great resource for him to share his story to the world.”
Mendez’s life continues to go at warp speed. In addition to finishing up work on the book deal, Mendez plans on developing an apparel line. After living in Gilroy for the majority of his life, Mendez decided to move to Southern California a couple of months ago, feeling like it was the right fit at this point in his life. He now has a couple of individuals who are his primary caretakers compared to previous years when Mike McAvoy was his sole caretaker.
The coronavirus pandemic has enhanced Mendez’s appreciation for his loved ones, while being thankful for all the little things in life.
“For me the biggest blessing is having the love of the people who have been around me, especially the ones who have been there since day one,” he said.
That includes his parents, Josie and Robert Mendez Sr., who live in Morgan Hill. Josie still calls Rob a couple of times a day, and Rob expressed appreciation for all of his loved ones genuinely wanting the best for him.
“I get a lot of phone calls from friends, family, my grandma, all checking in,” he said. “It’s good to hear from all of them.”