JASPER COUNTY, Ga. - For a boy who’s been told “no” his entire life, a Jasper County boy has spent his football season proving he only knows “yes”.
Michael Clendenin has had several serious illnesses since birth but despite that, the teenager beat the odds and got on the football field doing what he loves.
Watching Jasper County Middle School’s #78 dominate the gridiron, you would never imagine it’s the same boy who’s fought for a normal life since he was a baby.
Michael has been hit with one disease after another and not too long ago, wasn’t even able to leave home.
According to Michael’s mother Cindy, Michael had trouble breathing about 3 weeks after birth. More than 2 ½ years later, doctors diagnosed him with eosinophilic esophagitis.
The disease caused swelling to his esophagus, which depletes his muscles of oxygen and forced him to eat through a feeding tube which he still has to this day.
Michael also has restrictive lung disease which causes his body to tire even more, forcing him to stay in bed some days.
The experts told his parents he wouldn’t have a very long life.
But his parents said those doctors didn’t know Michael.
“Michael looked at them and said you don’t know that. Only God knows how long I have to live.”
Things got even tougher two years ago when doctors diagnosed Michael with a disease they said would rob him of his ability to walk and force him into a wheelchair, but the 8th grader had other plans.
His mother said, “He made that decision to be determined and overcome what he could.”
Over the summer, Michael decided to work out with the football team with the goal of playing this fall.
With the blessings of his doctors, he was on the field for the entire season despite his feeding tube and showed his heart to his teammates.
Michael said, “I just like having my friends around me protect them on the field.”
Jasper County Middle School honored Michael at their final game last week for powering through and fighting to survive and to win for the Hurricanes.
Cheerleaders yelled, “We love you, Michael” as he received his honor.
His mother says his football playing has also meant everything to her.
Cindy said, “I sat at home with him, confined at the house, for years. Watching him play makes my heart happy, my heart smile.”
His coach says Michael is relentless in practice as well as the game.
Coach Yelberton Frazier said, “You don't even know he has the condition. He plays as hard as any of my other players. If I had 10 or 11 of him, I would take them.”