Bay Area football coach born without arms or legs named ESPY award recipient

An inspiring high school football coach in the South Bay is being honored by ESPN with its Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

30-year-old Robert Mendez was born without arms or legs. But he's shown that his physical limitations won't keep him from living life to the fullest and doing what he loves best.

The South Bay native is the junior varsity football coach for Prospect High School in Saratoga, a role he took on last year. He finished his first season at the school with a 8-2 record.

Mendez joined the Panthers after spending more than a decade being an assistant coach for several football programs including San Jose High School's varsity team.

During an interview with KTVU's Amber Lee in July of 2016, Mendez expressed how his outlook and gratitude for what he's been able to accomplish, are so much of what drives him and said he's never felt sorry for himself. 

Mendez was born with a rare disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome and acknowledged that he suffers from back pain because of his condition.

"I'm not a disabled coach, I'm a different coach," he told Lee, adding, "When I start thinking about what I'm fortunate about, it picks me up."

With the help of his wheelchair and technology -- a smartphone and a stylus, Mendez transfers plays that are in his head and brings them to life onto the field as he encourages his players to push themselves. 

He said that he's grateful for the influence he's been able to have on the young players he's coached, as he demonstates how to tackle face-on the challenges life gives you. 

Mendez is known for getting his players pumped up with the chant, "Who Says I Can't!"

In an ESPN article announcing that the coach will be honored at The  ESPYS next month, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said the network was proud to be presenting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to Mendez, noting "Rob's entire life embodies the word perseverance."  

Mendez was also quoted in the article expressing that he was humbled and honored to receive the recognition.

The coach, who is no stranger to the feeling of gratitude, naturally offered words of appreciation. "Thank you to ESPN and all of my family, friends and of course players for believing in me!" And then he went on to repeat the chant he's hollered hundreds of times alongside his young athletes, asking "Who Says I Can't!"