ABOVE: Carlos Lee at football practice.
One can’t help but notice a certain charismatic young man when watching L. C. Bird High’s junior varsity football team’s defense gather for practice.
One’s eyes may immediately be drawn to his prosthetic right leg and the obvious limp when walking or running. A childhood illness has left Carlos Lee, also known as C.J., with a partial hip. He’s had his prosthesis since age 2.
It’s easy to forget those challenges when speaking with him, however. There’s a glint of joy in his eyes when he speaks about football and what he intends to accomplish on the field. He began playing football five years ago at age 10. He doesn’t dwell on his physical challenges. Instead, he concentrates on what he wants to accomplish.
Letting his disarming smile and easy personality lull a player into underestimating him on the football field will most likely leave him on the losing end of Lee’s rush off the defensive line. He is all gridiron warrior when the whistle blows and the ball is snapped.
This is the 15-year-old’s first year on the JV team, and his short-term goal is to start. Of course, starting for the varsity team is in his sights as well. Lee would also like to play college football, and as far as he’s concerned, playing in the National Football League is not out of the question. He’s also drawn to aeronautical engineering, just in case playing in the pros doesn’t work out.
Troy Taylor is in his first season as the Skyhawks’ varsity head coach. He inherited a team that is 102-13 since 2009. His experience includes being on the staff at Virginia Union University. He is continuing the entrenched winning tradition at L.C. Bird and never had any hesitation giving Lee a shot at getting on the roster. He was impressed with the young man’s prowess in the weight room during the summer.
“He’s a big, strong young man with a lot of heart,” Taylor said. Both coach and player have an affability that belies their seriousness when it comes to winning.
Lee neither expects nor receives any special breaks. He expects to make his way like anyone else. Whether it’s the game of football or the game of life, it looks as if Lee is a force to be reckoned with.