Positivity and Determination: Football Player Changes the Game

Jiayi Zhu, Staff Writer

For some football is merely a sport, a source of entertainment and an activity to put on a resume.

However, for senior wide receiver Ricardo Benitez the game means everything to him.

“I fell in love with the game of football when I was six,” he said. “Growing up in Texas it was a requirement that every kid plays football and I was going to be like everyone else. ”

However, Benitez sees the game from a different perspective at only four feet two inches tall.

“My handicap is called femur hypoplasia bilateral,” he said. “It’s a big fancy words that means I don’t have any femur bones. The obstacles I have faced through my disability are countless, but I have conquered all of them by adapting to the situation.”

Benitez more than makes up for his handicap with his spirit which constantly moves those around him.

“He’s a person who loves laughing a lot,” senior teammate Matthew Ohman said. “Sometimes it’s at his own jokes, but he always has a positive presence. He never cares about what happens, and he just goes to work. He may not be starting, but he works like he’s going to take the spot. That rubs off on me and makes me want to push myself.”

To Benitez football is more than just about winning, losing or even playing. Through his active participation in the sport he inspires others and sets an example for other young people with disabilities.

“I keep myself motivated by knowing that I have to prove everyone wrong,” Benitez said.  “There’s no better feeling than achieving a goal that no one else thinks you can achieve.”

Whether he gets to see the field or not, Benitez’s love for football has not faded at all as he proves himself a resilient athlete and teammate despite all odds.

“One time,” Ohman said, “we were conditioning and there was a kid struggling to finish. Ricardo was tired already since he finished, but I remember him going up to the other kid and running with him. It gave the kid a second wind, and he started running a lot faster because Ricardo was motivating him so much.”

Little gestures like this every day go a long way in keeping the team’s spirits up.

“It’s amazing how positivity has a huge impact on the people that you work with and Ricardo is one of the most positive, thoughtful young men that I know,” head coach Scott Smith said. “The thing about Ricardo, whether he knows it or not that it’s what he talks about all the time, is that it’s not about the end. It’s about the process that gets you to the end wherever that end takes you. I think that’s huge. I think that the guys that are around him see that in him every day.”

Benitez has big hopes for the future including continuing football at the college level and more.

“I also want to start my own foundation when I’m older that helps kids with physical disabilities gain independence and confidence for the rest of their lives,” Benitez said. “I just want to change the world and I think I’m on the right track.”