Isaiah Bird has no legs. And, he is a wrestler - a really good one. He will tell you that he “don’t need no legs; he’s a Gladiator.” His understanding of “handicapped” is “something that gives you an advantage over others.”
While you watch this young kid pull off perplexing, graceful moves on the wrestling mat, you have to wonder, “Who’s got this kid’s back? Who is the one tearing down obstacles so that this kid can realize his own greatness and find his Gladiator Within™? Who is the big hero behind the little hero, the one who has stepped out, stepped in, and stepped up?”
It is MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ, Isaiah’s coach and founder of the Long Beach Gladiators wrestling team.
The Miguel-Isaiah story is not complicated. A tuned-in principal approached Miguel knowing he could help Isaiah. Miguel didn’t flinch. He brought Isaiah onto his wresting team but he didn’t stop there: He took Isaiah into his home. Miguel wanted Isaiah to feel like he was “just another kid” but once you get to know Miguel, you will realize he is not “just another man.”
Miguel is surrounded by the love and support of his own family, his beautiful fiance, and his handsome, accomplished son, Elijah. He knew that the stability he could offer Isaiah could be invaluable. So, without hesitation but with a heart and smile as big as Texas (even though he is in New York), he took Isaiah into his arms and into his life, extended family and all.
I don’t know the full details of Miguel’s personal life but it doesn’t matter. He gives everything to the moment and to those around him. He creates a future of hope and a sense of safety. It is not a luxury for him; it is an obligation, a debt he owes just for being here.
Getting to know Miguel through text messages, phone calls, Facebook and Instagram posts, and finally meeting him in person, has revealed a remarkable man. Miguel has helped piece back a young boy’s life dented by physical, financial, emotional, and familial hardships. He goes beyond teaching kids how to wrestle. He has ingrained in each of his wrestlers a belief in himself and a hope for a limitless future. People love him. His fiance loves him, his family loves him, his wrestling team loves him - everyone loves him.
Miguel is a lot of things. He is a father. A son. A fiance. A brother. A coach. A teacher. A mentor. A protector. A champion. A man’s man. Everyone’s man. He bonds with others like super glue. He believes in fun, respect, kindness, self-discipline, giving your best, and getting ready to handle life. Defeat is temporary and must be erased with the lesson it offers and the chance to win again even if it is not on a mat.
He is an example of what it is to live your life to care for others. He has a grounded sense that the world is bigger than he is and he is up for the challenge. He doesn’t live in the spotlight – you can see him demure in the limelight so that others can bask in its glow. He doesn’t ask for anything except for your best, respect for others, and a belief that the human spirit is indomitable.
Get to know my Gladiator, Miguel Rodriguez, coach of the Long Beach Gladiators wrestling team. He has called on The Gladiator Within™ himself and has a special way of bringing that out in others. Miguel is a man you can always count on, especially when you need him the most. You’ll love this man. And, you just might want to have some of what he’s having, not for dinner, but for life.