HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - In the Tennessee Valley, high school football players are asked to see what they hit, either in practice or under the bright lights on a Friday night. After all, football is a contact sport that requires mental and physical toughness to go along with great vision.
But imagine a player who's blind. He has no vision, just focus and determination.
St. John Paul II Catholic High School is home to number 62 Jay Spencer. He plays center. He's also legally blind.
"It means the world to me. I love football. I don't know what else I would do without it. It's very much a part of my life," Jay said.
As a child, Jay was diagnosed with Leber's congenital amaurosis. This is a rare disease that affects 1 in 80,000.
"I can see better out of my left eye, but I can't see straight forward at all. I can see out of my right eye, but it's still blurred. If I want to see something I turn my head," he said.
"Honestly, my first reaction was, 'Who's my backup center?' I think that's a natural reaction til I got to met Jay and watch some film on him and things like that," said head coach David Lloyd. "Our guards will lead him to the huddle when we are on offense, but they will also get onto him if he's not doing his job. They treat him like he's another guy. If he's not working right or doing something in practice, those guys will let him know real quick."
"We started on the same football team in sixth grade. And he's just progressed from there. He's never let his blindness affect him on the field," said teammate Gerard McCarron.
"That's the thing with Jay. Never complains, has never been upset with the cards he's been dealt. He understands it's one more thing he's got to do and he's got to work a little harder. Never complains, classroom,football, field, anywhere. He takes care of business and just gets after it," said Lloyd.
"I'm lucky enough to have parents to say, 'My kid is blind, but I'll let him play football.' I'm very lucky in that sense. I feel very fortunate. The whole visually impaired thing, being blind, I've never really seen it as a limitation," said Jay.
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