New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees helped a high school quarterback keep alive his dream of returning to the football field.
Brees gave prep signal-caller Alex Ruiz his first walking prosthetic leg, with the promise of paying for an athletic prosthesis in the fall once Ruiz gets acclimated to the first one.
Ruiz had his right leg amputated below the knee in February because of a severe knee injury he suffered on a tackle last October. The Linfield Christian High School quarterback from Temecula, Calif., dislocated his left knee and severed an artery, cutting off the blood flow to his leg for 11 hours, according to KABC. The aftermath of the decision to cut off his leg has been tough on the 17-year-old.
“I had my good days and I had my bad days. It was just focusing more on the good days and not really thinking about what was going on. It was just more focusing on the future and what I can accomplish through this,” Ruiz said to KABC.
But Ruiz’s future changed last Friday when he went to the Football ‘N’ America flag football tournament in San Diego. When he was announced to the crowd by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), Brees was standing right behind him, with the prosthesis in hand. The surprise caught the teen off guard.
“It was a very emotional presentation and really exciting for everyone in our league to be a part of it,” said Brees to ESPN.
Brees’ FNA flag football league works with local charities, including the CAF, which is a non-profit organization that raises money to help disabled athletes with sports prosthetics.
The gesture had a greater impact on Ruiz, who wears No. 9 and grew up watching Brees when he played for the Chargers. Ruiz’s parents knew what the Super Bowl quarterback wanted to do for their son and kept the secret quiet for two months.
“Hardest secret of my life,” said Shirley Ruiz, Alex’s mother, to KABC.
This wasn’t the first time Brees reached out to Ruiz. Last season, he gave the high school quarterback a personalized jersey when a friend of Brees’ in Temecula called him during the season and told him about what happened to Ruiz.
“In the back of my mind, I said to myself, ‘I hope I get a chance to meet this young man someday,'” Brees recalled. “Alex has suffered a long and very difficult road but has remained so positive and insists this set of circumstances will not hold him back. He still has loftier goals than ever for his athletic career and beyond. We wanted to help his dreams come true.
“This is what it’s all about — providing the best family experience we can through our FNA flag football leagues and connecting with the communities in which we play.”
Brees invited Ruiz to watch the Saints-Chargers joint practice during training camp. It’s the cherry on top of a moment the teen won’t soon forget.
“If there’s anything above cloud nine, that’s where I’m at right now,” Ruiz said.
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