Espinoza Inspires Central High

Fresno, CA 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 if Espinoza agreed to a couple conditions.

"To hustle. Hustle and dress out," said Nick Espinoza, "Yeah, and work hard."

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

It's not your average invitation. Espinoza is mentally disabled, and learns at a third grade level. But he's loved and admired like a big man on campus.

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

Nick's father, Nick Espinoza Sr. said, "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."

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. At lunch he conversates with everybody. He knows everybody," said Grizzlies receiver Kameron Brooks, "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 because he's tackling this big issue… which he doesn't have to," said Nick Espinosa Sr.

But Coach Quinn did, and now Espinoza can't wait to join his teammates on the sidelines every Friday night. As a parent, that's all nick senior could ask for. "Us as fathers we want our son to be the linebacker. 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… to win a Valley championship … a Valley championship with Coach Quinn."

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