Valley Teen Inspiring Teammates

September 24, 2009 8:22:39 PM PDT
Central High School Junior Nick Espinoza spent last season as a Grizzly football manager. But this season, he earned an invitation from Coach Casey Quinn to join the team. That's if Espinoza agreed to a couple conditions."To hustle, hustle and dress out, "Espinoza said. "Yeah, and work hard."

"So far everything's been going pretty well," said Central Football Coach Casey Quinn. "We have great days, we have bad days. Just like everyone else. But it's a big addition to our family, our football family."

But it's not your average invitation. Espinoza is mentally disabled, and learns at a third grade level. But he's earned the love and friendship of a student up for prom king.

"He's a character like I really love. He's always happy," said Kenneth Hortizuela. "I can be in the worst mood of my life and just looking at Nick, and him saying 'Hi Kenneth or Hi Kenny,' it brings me up from down here all the way up here. So I'm really glad I know him."

"It was kind of hard at first but once the kids started to get to know Nick and Nick started to get to know the kids, Oh it was a win-win situation," said Nick's father, Nick Sr.

Only a couple years ago, Espinoza was introverted and not very social. But after becoming a Grizzly lineman, everyone around him has seen a big difference.

"He's friends with everybody at school," said Kameron Brooks. "At lunch he conversates with everybody. He knows everybody. Nick is a big flirt. He talks to a lot of girls at school. He's not scared to ask for your number either."

"And that's one thing that I give coach credit the thanks and the respect that he deserves." Said Nick Sr., "Because he's tackling this big issue, which he doesn't have to."

But Coach Quinn did, and now Espinoza can't wait to join his teammates on the sidelines every Friday night. And as a parent, that's all Nick Sr. could ask for.

"Us as fathers we want our son to be the linebacker," said Nick Sr. "We want our son to be that quarterback. But just by him being on the sidelines. That's my quarterback. That's my linebacker."

A proud parent, with an ambitious son who's got just a couple more goals to meet before the end of the season.

"To win games," said Nick Espinoza. "To win a valley championship. A Valley championship with Coach Quinn."

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