GILBERT, AZ - Making tackles and catching footballs. It’s what you'd expect from the Gilbert Bulldogs, but there's one pint-sized reason this youth team is unlike any other.
His name is Deion James.
"They said you can't do this, you can't do that. I didn't like it," he said.
"Just before he was two years old, we noticed his eye wasn't tracking as well," Heather Lorig, Deion's mom explains.
Doctors diagnosed him with Coats Disease.
"It's a really rare condition. They removed the whole eye and optic nerve. They said he won't be able to ride a bike, he won't be able to run and play, he has no depth perception, he's going to run into things," Lorig says.
But, miraculously, Deion adjusted to his impairment and prosthetic eye. So, when he asked to play tackle football this year, his parents were shocked when coaches would let him.
"I'm like, 'don't tell my kid he can't do anything,'" Jessie James, Deion's dad says.
"They didn't let me even try," Deion says.
That made Deion's mom furious.
"I thought shame on you, as an adult, to look at my child and say 'no, you're not allowed to do that.' I'm not going to let you do that," Lorig says.
It's a promise she kept. Coaches on the Bulldogs let Deion on the team and say they treat him like any other player.
"There is the only difference. He has a shield to protect his eye," Lorig says.
With the number 11 on his jersey and the name of his favorite player, "Fitzgerald," on the back, Deion's a star player on the Bulldogs, who are headed to the national championships.
Deion's already practicing his touchdown dance. This boy isn't looking for a Hail Mary, just a first down on every play.
"Look at me now," Deion jokes.
Yes, we're looking, very closely, because this 7-year-old plays to win.
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