A 22-Year-Old With ALS Is Building a Legacy, And an NFL Player Just Lent a Helping Hand

| DEC 5, 2017 | 6:57 PM
Osiel Mendoza (1)


Osiel Mendoza was enjoying his senior year at the University of Oregon when he noticed a constant twitching in his leg, cramping throughout his whole body and unexplained weight loss.

On Oct. 25, 2016, at only 21 years old, he was diagnosed with sporadic ALS, which means he wasn't genetically predisposed, and without any known causes, it can be chalked up to chance.

He told IJR he immediately thought of his future and asked a series of questions, which were only met with more bad news from the neurologist.

“With all of her responses being negative, in a nutshell, I felt hopeless and scared for my life,” he admitted.

Credit: Independent Journal Review/Osiel and Bella

In the face of the earth-shattering news, Mendoza looked to the future. He married his long-term girlfriend and dedicated himself to evoking meaningful change.

“I want my legacy to be that I did everything in my power to help find a cure for ALS,” Mendoza, now 22, revealed.

He explained to IJR that finding a cure is heavily dependent on research, and money is required to conduct that research. So donations are paramount.

Credit: Independent Journal Review/Osiel and Bella

Mendoza noted that not every donation goes to research-focused organizations, such as the ALS Therapy Development Institute. He's “confident” that if it did, “a huge breakthrough” would have already taken place.

“Money is standing in the way of a cure. Donations are crucial ... With more money, comes higher qualified researchers and more resources to work with in the lab to develop an effective treatment and cure.”

The 22-year-old acknowledged that awareness yields donations, and who better to raise awareness than someone with a national platform?

Trevor Davis/Instagram

When the NFL's “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign came around this year, Mendoza reached out to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Trevor Davis, who he played football with during his sophomore year in high school.

“He was someone that I always looked up to on and off the football field for his great skill as a player and even greater character as a person,” Mendoza told IJR.

Davis responded by saying the 22-year-old “beat him to the punch,” and he was planning to ask if he could represent ALS research on his cleats in honor of his former teammate — a moment that left Mendoza “ecstatic.”

“Sports are so powerful in our society,” Mendoza explained. “Sports bring together people of all types, whether playing or watching, sports are a universal language of their own.”

He applauded the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign but added that sports organizations have such immense power to positively influence the world, saying, “they can do much more.”

“We're gonna find a cure one day and I'm not gonna stop until we reach that point ... We have a lot to live for and to fight for and I hope you can all get motivated to never give up on your life, which is the motto I live by every single day.”

Osiel Mendoza/Instagram

He was once the typical college senior, but with one diagnosis, his whole life changed. While the 22-year-old has taken it in stride and handled the twist of fate with dignity and composure beyond his years, there are times when reality overcomes his positivity.

“Those tough times are usually when I think about my future and how unpredictable it is,” he explained. “I like to always think optimistically, but it's hard to not think about the statistics that come along with this disease. Two to five years. Terrifying.”

Osiel Mendoza/Instagram

During those times, he turns to his wife and their new puppy, who is being trained to be his service dog.

“They make me so happy and instead make me think about the bright future that I will have and how hard I am advocating for the ALS community,” he revealed to IJR. “Being with them is all I need to be happy.”

Watch more of his story, below.