The most striking thing about Josiah Sarmiento is not that he has cerebral palsy. It's that he radiates grit, courage, grace, and determination.
He's also a leader in the Patriot High School football program.
Josiah “has a huge heart, a crazy work ethic, always sees the good in others, is always happy and passionate about what he does, and always gives 100 percent," said Eric De Dios, defensive coordinator for PHS freshman football.
As a freshman, Josiah – a coach, player and team manager – has overcome barriers to learn without limits. An overview:
“All teammates and coaches respect Josiah," Coach De Dios said. “He is a coach, he has passion for the game, and he gives everything he has. Respect isn't given … it is earned. Josiah will be successful because he has the ability to earn respect from everyone on the field."
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Josiah's story is one of earning every yard – through optimism, tenacity, and pushing to achieve a dream.
He joined PHS football because his twin brother, Isaiah, wanted to play. Soon enough, remote interest gave way to pure passion for a physical, cerebral, strategically complex game.
Josiah said: “I enjoy coaching my brother. I get on him when he messes up on plays and I coach him on what he can do better. My job is to help him to become a great football player."
Isaiah said: “He knows that I will push my hardest for him."
Isaiah, who said he and his twin are rarely apart, added: “My brother is successful because of his personality. He pushes himself to the limit even more than he should. He wants everyone to be better. He asks everyone to do exactly what he does, which is to give everything they have."
PHS coaches were determined to get the hard-charging teen into a game this year. When they did, he scored a touchdown for the ages.
Eric Hammond, Patriot's varsity football coach, coordinated with De Dios and Hugo Navarro, football coach at JVHS, to get Josiah playing time in the Oct. 17 PHS vs. JVHS matchup. It was the first time Josiah had played in a game, and he was selected as Patriot's team captain.
“Before the game, we spoke to the officials and told them that Josiah was going to play," Mr. Hammond said. “Then both teams met mid-field. We talked to both teams and discussed that even though we may be rivals that we are the same community. We threw the break to a player from Jurupa Valley. After our discussion, the player yelled out, 'Family on three – break!'"
Josiah, asked about his touchdown, said, “When I crossed the goal line, it felt great. It meant a lot to me, my brother, my family, and my teammates."
It also meant a lot to Josiah's mother, Sarah Sarmiento. “When Josiah scored a touchdown it was an emotional moment for me," she said. “Fifteen years ago we were told that he would never walk and (this year) we were watching him carry a football into the end zone. That moment was a dream of Josiah's, and I was ecstatic for him."
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Rewind to before the game: Coach Hammond did not sleep for two nights. He wanted Josiah to have a great memory while avoiding injury (at the time, Isaiah, a running back, was sidelined with a sprained ankle).
Mr. Hammond said:
“Josiah gets no special treatment. I told him that before the season was over, he would be on the field. On Oct. 17, Josiah got his chance and his whole family was there. He took the ball from the 20-yard-line and punched it into the end zone. He scored a touchdown in front of 70 brothers on the field. In my 40 years in sports, this event was the best thing I've ever been a part of."
Ms. Sarmiento said:
“Josiah is a role model for anyone who struggles, goes through a difficult time, or faces challenges in life. Josiah inspires others and that is why his touchdown touched so many others. Josiah refuses to quit, and others went above and beyond to help him reach his dream."
She continued, “Patriot football has been amazing for Josiah. He feels a brotherhood from the team and coaching staff. For the first time in his life he truly feels accepted by a group other than his family."
When Josiah graduates, he plans to stay at Patriot and coach varsity football.
Meanwhile, Josiah's character and fortitude have won him fans throughout Jurupa USD and the Jurupa community.
“Josiah truly exemplifies learning without limits and he is a great example for us all," said JUSD Superintendent Elliott Duchon. “I'm proud to say that I have learned so much from him and am inspired by him."
Coach De Dios added: “Josiah is very strong. There is no quit in him. There are days when he is tired and we ask him to take a break. He absolutely refuses. He says, 'No coach! I've got work to do.' Every school needs more kids like him."