Commentary

Kevin throws with Russell Wilson

Updated: August 18, 2013, 4:43 PM ET
By Shannon Cross | ESPN.com

Kevin Lee has a fearless attitude that would make the Cowardly Lion jealous.

He has needed it to make it this far.

Kevin was born with pulmonary atresia with an intact ventricular septum (PAIVS), a rare heart condition in which the right ventricle doesn't form, preventing the heart from supplying oxygenated blood to the lungs.

[+] EnlargeMy Wish
Courtesy Lee familyDawn Lee holds her newborn son, Kevin.

As a result of his condition, at 12 years old, Kevin stands only 4-foot-4. "I'm very short for my age, and I can't play contact sports like other kids can," he says, running to the wall where he tracks his height.

Kevin also was born legally blind. Even though the odds are stacked against him, Kevin still shares a passion for a sport he can't play: football.

"If I could play, I would be a defensive tackle. I want to crush people and hit people," he said with a laugh.

"He wants to play the one position that would hurt him the most, apparently," his mother, Dawn Lee, added with a smile.

Although he would enjoy the chance to crush people, the Farmington Hills, Mich., native relates to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as he creates magic on the gridiron.

"I like Russell Wilson because I like his number, he's short -- but he's still good," Kevin said.

The 5-foot-11 rookie quarterback turned heads in 2012 with his pocket presence, accuracy and leadership skills propelling the Seahawks to the NFC playoffs.

On June 11, Kevin's wildest dreams came true as he traveled to Seattle to meet Wilson and the Seahawks. It was a long way from the day Kevin was born, when the doctor rushed him out of the room before his mother could hold him in her arms or see his face. Six hours passed without another word before she was told he was born legally blind, had a heart condition and likely wouldn't live six months.

[+] EnlargeKevin Lee, Russell Wilson
ESPNKevin finally gets the chance to meet his favorite football player, Russell Wilson.

It wasn't until Kevin was 18 months old that his macula, a central spot of the retina responsible for detailed central vision, formed. The eye surgery he underwent when he was in kindergarten could correct only part of that problem, leaving him without peripheral vision, but his performance in school has improved since then.

"[James Geisler Middle School] is all about making sure he sits on the correct side on the room, facing the right direction and wearing his glasses," his mother said. "He doesn't have to take any special classes; he's mainstreamed and does really well in school."

He did pretty well for himself during his visit with Wilson and the Seahawks, too.

Kevin, his mother and older sister, Savannah, arrived at the Seahawks' training facility in a limo, and they were greeted by the Sea Gals cheerleaders and a band. Soon after, coach Pete Carroll handed him an official contract to be a Seahawk for the day. His payment? An official team jersey, shorts, shoes, pants and a helmet.

Kevin quickly got dressed, then cornerback Richard Sherman lifted him up so he could "slap in" by hitting the Seahawk sign on the way out the door.

On the roster that day, the Seahawks named Kevin as the replacement QB for Wilson.

[+] EnlargeKevin Lee
ESPNSeahawks coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider present Kevin with a five-year contract.

"We threw around the football, and coach Pete Carroll tackled me. I got to kick with the kickers too," Kevin said. With a chuckle, he added, "I scored a touchdown and did my dance, but you'll have to wait to see it in the video."

"I also got to raise the 12 flag," he said, referring to the tradition of Seahawks fans -- "the 12th Man" -- hoisting the flag at the stadium before kickoff.

Afterward, he attended a news conference and had lunch with the team.

"My favorite part of the day was having lunch with all the players. Richard Sherman is a very funny dude," he said. "I told him I was going to take Pete Carroll's place one day, and we joked about what I would do if they won or lost a game."

Meeting Russell Wilson wasn't Kevin's only wish, he also wanted to experience it with his father, who works for the military in Qatar.

Soon after he found out he'd be meeting the Seahawks, there was a knock at the front door of his home in Michigan.

It was his father, Doug Lee, carrying balloons.

It had been a year since Kevin and his father were together, so he was completely overjoyed to see him and find out that he would be traveling to Seattle, too. Doug's heartwarming homecoming was the perfect topper to a day when Kevin's biggest wish came true.

"I think this wish gave Kevin hope," Dawn Lee said. "Everything the [Make-A-Wish Foundation] did was above and beyond what we expected.

"They told him to wish for the stars, and they surpassed that."

Shannon Cross

Talent Integration
Shannon Cross is an Emmy-nominated editor for ESPN.com, and also serves as a social media correspondent. She joined ESPN in 2005.

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