Kerman community rallying around former Fresno State football player battling ALS

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- One of ten siblings growing up in Kerman, Efrain Guizar found his purpose on the football field.

"I was a young boy, got to watch a game on the berm before they built the stadium, my older brother took me there," he said. "That's what I want to do, I want to be a Bulldog."

After playing for the Kerman Lions, Guizar started coaching Pop Warner. When Pat Hill was hired to be the head coach in 1997, his brother convinced him to try out. It had been three years since he last put on the pads.

"I stayed the course, but being the smallest, slowest, weakest guy on the team, literally bottom of the depth chart, persevered and worked hard got me to where I am today, thanks to that," Guizar said.

Once he made the team, his top goal was to make special teams so he could travel.

"You don't fall asleep in a meeting with Coach Baxter," Guizar said. "You better know your routine, all sayings of special teams that are out there. If you fall asleep, you have to stand on a chair during the meeting."

At the start of the '97 season, his number was finally called, subbing in at safety for an injured Cory Hall.

"Coach Coyle does a big packet of the scouting report and I would sit in the hotel and study it," Guizar said. "I made sure if I got the opportunity to get on the field, I better not make a mistake."

Over two seasons, the walk-on would play 21 games, coming away with eight interceptions -- two of which were returned for a touchdown.

Guizar says it's special seeing his former coaches return to the Bulldog sidelines.

"It actually hits home because they were there when I was there," he said. "They gave me an opportunity, they gave me a chance."

On the field, Guizar battled for the Bulldogs. Today, he's battling something new.

After carpal tunnel surgery in both arms, the pain and shaking in his hand returned. After several tests at Stanford Medical Center, he was diagnosed with ALS in October of last year.

"Wake up every day and take it one day at a time, don't cry in front of my kids," he said. "The only time I did was on the 29th when I had to tell them. I do all the tears and crying on my own when I need to and with my wife."

Ten days a month, Efrain takes an infusion to slow the progression of the disease.

"The first time we started the infusion at home, I was a little stressed out because I wasn't familiar with the process," he sai. "But now, I'm very familiar -- I can do it in my sleep."

There's currently no cure for the disease. When the Kerman community learned of his diagnosis, they came together to help the family.

"The community refused to not want to help us," Guizar said. "My coworker, he was an assistant coach when I played at Kerman. He got people to cover a year of lawn service, housekeeping and pool service. An Anonymous donor covered the cost of flooring to be installed. Doctors told me I couldn't have any transition pieces -- get rid of tile, carpet, get rid of everything."

Guizar says the Kerman community made a big impact on his life and he wants to give back in the best way he knows how -- coaching football.

"Everybody loves him, what's not to love," says Mandy Guizar. "He's amazing. He's such a role model, he's had former players come over on prom night so he can tie their ties. I open the door and there's a kid going, 'Hey, is Coach Guizar here so he can tie our ties?'"
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.