SARATOGA (CBS SF) — Prospect High School junior varsity football coach Rob Mendez shared the stage Wednesday night with many of the biggest and brightest stars of the sports world at the Espy Awards.

The St. Louis Blues, who made an improbable climb from the NHL’s worst team to Stanley Cup winners in the same season, were there. As were the U.S. women’s soccer players fresh off their World Cup victory and U.S. skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin, NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo and NFL great Drew Brees.

But no one’s story was more inspirational than Mendez’s as he was awarded the prestigious Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

Mendez was born without limbs due to a rare disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome. He was unable to play football, but taught himself the fundamentals of the sport and found he excelled at coaching and inspiring his players.

Last season, the 31-year-old coached his junior varsity football team to an 8-2 record and a spot in the league title game.

“It’s honestly been hard for me to fathom receiving this award, to be recognized alongside heroes of mine like coach Valvano, Stuart Scott, Jim Kelly and so many others,” Mendez told the audience in accepting the award. “But the reality is I am here. And if there’s any message I want to give you guys tonight, it’s to look at me and see how much passion I put into coaching and how far it’s gotten me.”

“When you dedicate yourself to something and open your mind to different possibilities and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do, you really can go places in this world.”

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