He has the chops to make it!
Meet this 15-year-old blind quarterback who has dreams of making it to the NFL, CNN reports.
Jasen Bracy was just 1 year old when he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a type of cancer that causes tumors in the retinas. He ended up undergoing a number of treatments, but none of them worked and by the time he turned 7, he was totally blind. The only thing Jasen can perceive is whether it's morning or night time.
Still, the teen said he never felt self-conscious or like he couldn’t pursue his dreams. Growing up, he would join his father during football season three days a week, while his father narrated the details of the game. That’s when Jasen realized football was his passion.
On Jasen’s 13th birthday, his parents gifted him an iPhone in an effort to offer him more accessibility options. Unbeknownst to his parents, Jasen began using the phone to call every local football team in his Modesto, California area to see if they would give him the opportunity to play.
“All of a sudden, one day we get a call from Coach David Nichols, saying, ‘Hey, I got a call from your son asking if he can come play football for us, but did he say he was blind?’,” his father, Jasen Bracy Sr. recalled.
Despite all of the rejections Jasen had received, Coach Nichols decided to take a chance on him, allowing him to come on board with the Modesto Raiders.
“When I first took him on I was a little skeptical, but once I saw him as a person, I knew this kid could do anything. I’ve always accepted him, but I was like ‘How am I going to do this?’ Once you see him out there it’s different,” said Nichols.
Jasen and his father Jasen Bracy Sr. Photo Courtesy of CNN
Jasen took his whole team by surprise, mastering techniques and memorizing each play and player position all without his eyesight. His father stands on the sidelines as added help, speaking to Jasen via walkie talkie to narrate the visuals.
“He knows where to be at, where to hand the ball off, where the kid’s going to be at, he knows how to get the points,” said Nichols.
Jasen said despite him being differently abled, he is determined to even the playing field when he suits up.
“I never used even once that I can’t see as an excuse. Never have, never will. I told my team that the only difference between me and the other quarterback is that he has a different number, and that’s it,” he said.
Recently, Jasen led his team to a victory, scoring a running touchdown against an opposing team that had rejected him. Everyday he suits up, it's his goal to play just as hard as everyone else. Most times, he said other teams don’t know he’s blind, and if they don’t know, he doesn’t clue them in.
“I don’t tell them, not before or after the game, so they don’t even think about easing up on me. I’m the quarterback, and one of the quarterback’s jobs is leading the team. As a leader, I have to take control of this team, lead them through good and bad times no matter the situation I have to get us through. And I’m tough as iron. I am going to play hard,” said Jasen.
His goal is to one day make it to the league, playing for the NFL. Jasen is good in other sports, also doing well in swimming, golf, baseball and wrestling, but football is where his heart is.
“Maybe one day I’ll be on TV on the football field myself. There’s no limits, and if there’s something in the way, I’ll find out how to get around it or over it. I’ll find a way to achieve my goal in the best way possible,” Jasen said.
His father, Bracy Sr., said he’s just proud he gets to see his son play at all, something he didn’t think would be possible after learning he would be blind for the rest of his life.
“All I know is that we are lucky the cancer didn’t spread to his head or into anything life threatening. I was always grateful I still had my son, I can still talk to him, laugh and joke with him because he has a great sense of humor. I can still watch sports with him by commentating to him what was happening throughout the game,” he said.
Nichols said Jasen’s fearlessness and determination inspires the whole team and he is committed to helping Jasen make it to the NFL.
“Just seeing him, he shows me there’s nothing you can’t do, and that reflects on the other kids. Ever since he’s been on my team, the team gravitate around him. It changes their whole outlook on life. He makes the season. Even if we don’t win, just having that chemistry with the team has probably been one of the best things I’ve ever been around,” said Nichols.
Jasen said he’s grateful for all the support from his father, friends, team and his coach.
“I want to especially thank my coach for giving me the chance to put on the pads, put on the helmet, and prove what I can do on the field,” he said.
Sky is just the beginning for you Jasen. Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of CNN