VENTURA, Calif. - For most people football is just a game, but for one Buena high school player it's more than just a sport. For LJ L.J. Lewis being a part of the Buena football team has provided him with brotherhood and a sense of acceptance as well as gaining a friendship that would highlight what is right in the world.
Last season Melissa Lewis witnessed her son run for a 72 yard touchdown during his freshman year playing football. It showcased that a little adversity wouldn't keep him down.
“At 18 months L.J. experienced language delay and eye contact so he was diagnosed being on the autism spectrum,” said Lewis.
Despite what medical label was given to L.J., Melissa wanted to involve her son in the typical high school culture. She came up with the idea of having her son try out for the Buena Bulldog football team.
“When I went here to Buena I knew there was a strong brotherhood amongst the football team and I thought this was the idea,” said Lewis.
Like any mother Melissa had her doubts about her son playing such a physical sport. Not only was she concerned if L.J. was going to be able to handle the strenuous workouts, but she was also concerned how the rest of the team would react to him. That first summer practice a player approached L.J. immediately.
“Within minutes there’s this kid that came up and said “Hey L.J., my name is Josh and I will be your partner for this drill, said Melissa. "It was an instant bond.”
Josh Jones who is now a sophomore with L.J. on the JV team treats him like any other 15 year old. Last year during the last game of the season Josh wanted to do something special for his best friend. He orchrastred a designed play just for L.J. which would allow him to score a touchdown. It was something that even the opposing team was willing to take part in.
“L.J. just had a little bit of anxiety about being protected and safe out there,” said Melissa.
“L.J. was kind of jittery. He was like NO NO NO. So I took him aside on the field and I basically told him I will be with you all the way," said Josh Jones, L.J's bestfriend. "I won’t let anyone touch you.”
Josh was right next to L.J. the whole 72 yards leading him towards end zone.
“The whole stadium was just chanting L.J., L.J., L.J. and I am looking over and I see grown men crying,” said Melissa.
“He just had the best time of his life and that is what made me happy,” said Jones.
This year around Josh and L.J. are back on the Bulldogs JV team ready to take part of a new season.
Through the sport of football Melissa has seen her sons confidence sky rocket. She has witnessed him take more initiative and break barriers that he many not have been willing to take before. But most importantly he’s made a friendship that is unbreakable.