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Rob Mendez was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder that caused him to be born without arms or legs, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a head football coach. In the next issue of ESPN The Magazine, Mendez writes a letter to the game that changed his life and allowed him to inspire so many others. Though Mendez himself was not able to play football, he did develop a passion for it at an early age. He taught himself the fundamentals of the sport using the Madden video games, became manager of the football team as a freshman in high school, and eventually quarterback coach in his senior year. After graduating, he spent 12 years as an assistant coach for various programs. Finally, in 2018, he was hired as a head coach for the junior varsity football team at Prospect High School in Saratoga, California. His football acumen, positive outlook, and genuine love for his team have made him a revered coach, and those around him are endlessly inspired by the adversity he overcomes in his day-to-day life. ESPN will also honor Mendez with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2019 ESPYS presented by Capital One, live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET on July 10.
ESPN The Magazine’s Heroes Issue will also break down “Another Year of Living Heroically” as writer Dan Appenfeller highlights some of the past year’s daring rescues, feats of strength and feel-good moments from luminaries like Simone Biles, Mookie Betts and Chris Long—and from some remarkable regular folks too. Editors also reached out to 122 current stars across 27 sports for the “Starstruck!” feature to ask them a simple yet revealing question: Who was your childhood sports idol?
With the Women’s World Cup underway, The Mag has several features looking back on the golden memories of the heroes of ’99. In “Both Sides Now” writer Elaine Teng explains why the 1999 World Cup was an inspiration for her 9-year-old self as she grew up in a Chinese-American household. But the final hit a little too close to home. In “Instant Icons, Lasting Legends,” writers Laura M. Purtell and Lynn Olszowy look back on the U.S. National team that changed it all for women’s soccer—and female athletes. And in “Captain Fantastic,” Becky Sauerbrunn pens her thank-you to Carla Overbeck, who taught her to lead.
Also in this issue:
No Safe Place
Violence and death threats forced Saadiq Mohammed from Somalia and Kenya. In the U.S., he sought asylum—and a soccer field to call home. By Hallie Grossman
After being benched in the World Series, Cody Bellinger now leads MLB in WAR and owns the lefties who once owned him. How’s he done it? The All-Star wields five tools like a master craftsman. By Anthony Olivieri
It’s Chow Time
Who has the stomach to be the next Joey Chestnut? We asked Matt Stonie, holder of 13 competitive eating records and the last guy to beat Chestnut at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, about what it’s like to be a competitive eater ahead of this year’s Fourth of July contest…maybe let’s leave the Mustard Belt for the pros. By Lane Strauss
Tape of the Tales
Height? Reach? Who cares? Let’s break down UFC 239 purely with the best backstories from the main card. By Sachin Dave Chandan
Stadium Food Deconstructed: Noodle Me Timbers
Providence Park executive chef Tony Parker rhapsodizes about serving the Rose City’s eclectic palates, including this glass-noodle, cilantro-sesame-dressed Vietnamese salad. By Dan Hajducky
How hubris, ambition and colossal miscalculation doomed the Alliance of American Football. By Seth Wickersham and Michael Rothstein
A look inside the 125-year-old family-owned British company that handcrafts most of the bats used in this summer’s Cricket World Cup. Photographs by Kate Peters
Spotify alert! Andy Grammer’s new song “My Own Hero” debuts at ESPN’s 2019 Sports Humanitarian Awards, so The Mag asked the lifelong sports fan about his inspirations, his own heroes and those pesky KD-to-NY rumors. By Charlotte Gibson
The Mystery of Superhuman Strength
Athletes have long sought to harness the power of heroism. Why has it proved so elusive? By Scott Eden
The Numbers: Calling His Shot
Ahead of the 2019 NBA draft, a new cache of college basketball data is finally allowing statisticians to draw some firmer conclusions about the differences between the pro and college games. Peter Keating examines how Zion Williamson’s game may translate to the NBA. The rookie season of Deandre Ayton offers some tantalizing clues.
The Truth: Vicious Cycle
He cheated, he lied, he finally got caught. Howard Bryant explains why the Lance Armstrong story didn’t end with his fall from grace—it had sadly and predictably only just begun.