High School: Hector Salinas

Award winners overcame incredible challenges

October, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas – Adrian Casadas has worn a smile on his face for the past week that nothing or nobody could wipe off. Those few days of pure giddiness culminating in the experience of a lifetime at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington all but made up for the 10 days Casadas spent in the hospital before this year’s football season.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Casadas with Rocket Ismail
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comFormer Dallas Cowboy Rocket Ismail poses with award winner Adrian Casadas, who received an ESPN RISE Above Student Athlete Award.
When Casadas was a child, he was told he would never be able to participate in physical activities because of a birth defect affecting his right leg. That prognosis was reinforced when doctors amputated Casadas' right leg, just below the knee.

However, Casadas' belief that his disability was not a setback, rather an extra challenge to overcome, led him to play varsity high school football at Dallas Molina.

His teammates at first didn’t know quite what to make of their new teammate with his prosthetic leg on the first day of practice, but after he made it through all the drills with the ease of every other player and Casadas himself getting frustrated with his teammates for not hitting him hard, the Molina players realized that this young man could play, and play hard.

“From that day on he’s been an inspiration for all of them,” Molina head coach Charles DeVille said. “When one kind of gets down and says he has a cold or a pulled muscle, they look over at Adrian and say, ‘I’m fine.’”

Casadas battles hard enough that it sometimes forces him into the hospital because of infections and blisters the prosthetic creates on his knee. This was another setback Casadas faced before the season started.

Monday, all his hard work was rewarded, as he was honored with the ESPN RISE Above Student Athlete Award. The award, given to student athletes who have overcome adversity to display excellence in the community, classroom and field, includes an inside peek behind the scenes of Monday Night Football and recognition at the Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Luncheon.

“I never really had a setback, just a motivational stride. It’s never really stopped me,” Casadas said. “I’ve always looked at it as something that should make me want to push harder and work harder.”

[+] EnlargeTate & Ismail
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comOlivia Tate, whose family relocated from New Orleans to Arlington because of Hurricane Katrina, was one of three area student-athletes honored Monday at Cowboys Stadium.
Also honored on Monday was Arlington Seguin basketball player Octavia Tate. Tate had a very normal life in Louisiana until Hurricane Katrina hit. Her family was forced to move everything it had to Arlington and start a new life.

Part of that new life for Tate was to pick up a basketball for the first time in 2005. Ever since, she has been working hard to be a leader on her team and to make it to the varsity level, which she achieved this season.

“She’s a good hard working individual,” Seguin head coach Courtney Philips said. “She’s the mom of the team and makes sure everyone is ready to go. On top of everything else, she’s a good human being.”

Tate was not even going to see her dream fulfilled this season when she decided to forgo her senior year of basketball to get an extra job to help out with her family. With the blessing of her family, she overcame another obstacle to become the successful student athlete she is this year.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity I have been blessed with,” Tate said. “I can’t look at Hurricane Katrina as a downfall, because I wouldn’t be here today.”

The final award winner was Fort Worth Diamond Hill's Hector Salinas. Salinas, a soccer and cross country athlete, moved in with a friend's family after his mother died of cancer three years ago. Salinas works hard in the classroom to maintain a 3.8 GPA while playing sports and working shifts at Taco Bell that often end at 2 a.m. on school nights. Despite the late work, Salinas has never missed a 6 a.m. cross country practice.

ESPN RISE honors 3 athletes who persevered

October, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- ESPN RISE honored three local student athletes at the Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Luncheon on Monday at Cowboys Stadium.

The ESPN RISE Above Student Athlete Awards are given to athletes who overcome adversity and excel in athletics as well as academics. These athletes receive much more than plaques marking their accomplishment; they are given a sneak peek inside what it takes to put on Monday Night Football and attention from NFL and ESPN brass.

“It’s about high school athletes overcoming incredible obstacles, in the community, the classroom and the field,” Ndidi Massay, director of business operations for ESPN RISE, said. “It’s not always your best athletes, but it’s the athletes that have overcome the most and have these heart-wrenching stories.”

Football player/wrestler Adrian Casadas (Dallas Molina), cross country runner Hector Salinas (Fort Worth Diamond Hill-Jarvis) and basketball player Octavia Tate (Arlington Seguin) were the recipients of this award and a day of fame that began early Monday morning in Arlington’s monument to football.

The winners, along with a few friends, began the day touring the club level of the stadium, where the Chalk Talk Lunch was held. Along the way, various ESPN employees met with the award winners and explained their role in the events of the day and motivated the students to work hard to find similar successes they have achieved.

The award winners and guests were then treated to a discussion panel that included Paul Richardson, senior vice president of human resources for ESPN, and former Dallas Cowboy Rocket Ismail, among others.

Ismail spoke of the people and experiences that shaped him as a youth, passing along that wisdom to future generations.

“I’m kind of stunned because time has fast forwarded and now I’m giving [wisdom] that I’ve got,” Ismail said. “I love that and I love being a part of programs that put that first.”

During the Chalk Talk presentation, the student-athletes shared a stage with the likes of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Monday Night Football personalities Ron Jaworski, Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden, receiving recognition for their accomplishments and plaques as tangible evidence of their achievement.

“It’s amazing,” Casadas said about the day. “It’s just such a great experience. It said it would be life changing, and it really is. The fact that I’m here, in the new stadium, meeting new people, meeting the Rocket Ismail. It’s amazing.”

Both ESPN and the NFL make matching donations to the high schools of the athletes selected for the award.

“The [student-athletes] that were here today; they were here because [overcoming adversity is] what they did,” Ismail said. “I just really wanted to bring home to them that they might not be the best athlete in your school or the most popular, but what you’re developing characteristically is a thing the very best athletes wish they had.”