Gilroy resident Rob Mendez experienced every gamut of the emotional spectrum in accepting the Jimmy V Award for perseverance in Wednesday’s ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Mendez, who was born without arms and legs, was visibly nervous as he came onto the stage before he settled down and delivered an inspiring speech in front of an audience filled with a Who’s Who of great athletes.
The Jimmy V Award is named after the late North Carolina State men’s basketball coach Jimmy Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara presented the award to Mendez, who is entering his second season as the Prospect High junior varsity football coach.
“It’s honestly been hard for me to fathom to be receiving this award to be recognized alongside heroes of mine like Coach Valvano, (former ESPN sports anchor) Stuart Scott, (former Buffalo Bills quarterback) Jim Kelly and so many others,” Mendez said on the live July 10 broadcast. “If there’s any message I want to give you guys tonight, it’s to look at me and see how much passion I put into coaching and how far it’s gotten me. 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 served as an assistant coach at various schools, including Gilroy High, Christopher High and Sobrato High before landing his current position at Prospect High.
Mendez lives with his caretaker, Mike McAvoy, in Gilroy. Mendez’s parents, Josie and Robert Mendez, Sr., live in Morgan Hill.