A lot of people would have crumbled if they walked in the shoes of Yosue Gomez … or perhaps his cleats.
With his mother battling addiction, Gomez was placed in a foster home at the end of his sophomore year of high school. Despite these circumstances, Gomez remained a dependable big brother, an ideal student, and an inspiring teammate as a three-year starting lineman at Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, N.J. His remarkable character is highlighted by a 3.7 cumulative GPA coupled with his achievements in football, wrestling, and track – all of which he had not played until high school.
Knowing the impact that he made on them, his coaches and teammates nominated him for the 2020 USA Football Heart of a Giant Award, presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants. Coach Matt Demarest recently called an unplanned virtual team meeting and surprised everyone with two guest speakers – Giants tight end Evan Engram and Associate Team Physician & HSS Sports Medicine Surgeon, Dr. Samuel Taylor – to inform Gomez that he was the winner.
"[This award is for] your perseverance, all your hard work, the impact that you have on your teammates and your community and your friends," Engram told Gomez via video conference. "I can relate to you because all the things in your life that can hold a lot of people back, you never let that happen. … I think the biggest thing as people that we can leave on this earth is how we impact the people around us, how we build people up, how we support people, how we just be an example in our communities and around our friends and family. And you are the prime example of a positive impact on this earth."
Officially, the award program seeks to "find and highlight Tri-State high school players who demonstrate that extra something special. The ones that have a relentless work ethic and unmatched love for the game. Values like commitment, character, teamwork, dedication and will are crucial every season. But in times like this, they matter even more."
Gomez embodies them all.
"Dude, you're a beast. You're an inspiration," Dr. Taylor said. "When you put that alongside a life story that has not been easy and is one where a lot of people would have crumbled under that kind of pressure, it adds that much more power."
As winner of USA Football's Heart of a Giant Award, Gomez received a trophy presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants in addition to a $5,000 equipment grant for his high school football program.
"It's just an honor all around," Gomez said. "I'm glad that I can give back to Tech and the football program that's helped me a lot. The real point of the story and the real point of highlighting something like this is just to show you that your situation or just because you feel like you're at rock bottom doesn't mean you can't just shoot right back to the top. It's not more about me; it's more about the fact that you can do whatever you want as long as you put your mind to it and just keeping grinding and keep working."
Gomez was just one of the many inspirational stories around the Tri-State area. Below is a list of the 11 finalists, who comprise the 2020 Heart of a Giant Team. Each honoree will receive a $1,000 equipment grant for their team.
2020 Heart of a Giant Team
Yosue Gomez – Passaic County Technical School (Wayne, N.J.)
Gordon Brienza - Bernards High School (Bernardsville, N.J.)
Blake Freschi - Hasbrouck Heights High School (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.)
Herwin Tejada - Hackensack High School (Hackensack, N.J.)
Drew Trust - Jackson Memorial High School (Jackson, N.J.)
Jack Campbell - Fairfield Ludlowe High School (Fairfield, Conn.)
Patrick Rosetti - Danbury High School (Danbury, Conn.)
Semaj Branch - Newburgh Free Academy (Newburgh, N.Y.)
Jasier Rollins - Weequahic High School (Newark, N.J.)
Vincent Schaub - Yonkers Brave/Enrolled at Saunders Trade and Technical School (Yonkers, N.Y.)
Mikai Gbayor - Irvington High School (Irvington, N.J.)
To learn about their stories, CLICK HERE.