Courage Award| Davonte Pollard

Pollard doesn’t let eye disease derail his dream

 

Davonte Pollard didn’t let a debilitating eye disease stop him from returning to sports and running the football for Braddock.

 
Davonte Pollard from Braddock is awarded by Kevin Whelan, athletic director at Braddock, during the Miami Herald All-Dade Athletic Awards breakfast, May 22, 2013.
Davonte Pollard from Braddock is awarded by Kevin Whelan, athletic director at Braddock, during the Miami Herald All-Dade Athletic Awards breakfast, May 22, 2013.
WALTER MICHOT / Miami Herald Staff

Special to The Miami Herald

Braddock junior running back Davonte Pollard, with a little prodding from friends in the NFL and college, didn’t give up his dream of playing football despite a debilitating eye condition..

For not giving up, Pollard received the Leo Suarez/Walter Krietsch Courage Award during Wednesday afternoon’s All-Dade Athletic Awards breakfast.

His family began to notice the 9-year-old uncharacteristically missing teammates’ passes in optimist basketball, even though Pollard never complained about his sight. He also played football at the time.

Upon visiting the doctor, Pollard was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a debilitating eye disease that limits vision to shapes and colors.

Seven years later, Pollard told his parents that he wanted to play football again. Scared at first, they originally told him no. They would eventually have a change of heart, deciding instead to support their son and his dream.

“He makes us strong,” his father Joseph said. “I still go crying and all that in the corners, but I don’t let him see that because I have to stay strong for him. Great kid, smart, everything.”

Pollard approached Braddock coach Frank Rojas, who said he could be on the team if he received medical clearance. Less than two weeks later, Pollard joined his classmates on the field, wearing pads and a helmet.

Until he began practicing with the team last spring, Pollard hadn’t played football since he quit sports upon discovering his condition.

During that time, he taught himself guitar and piano, citing Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles as inspiration.

This past fall on the final play of Braddock’s homecoming victory over rival Coral Park, Pollard entered the game and took a handoff.

“Just being able to do it again and being with the players, it was very intense,” Pollard said. “When everybody in the stands and on the sidelines saw me going in they started screaming.”

Following his senior year, Pollard hopes to pursue accounting, music or business at Florida State University.

That’s where one of his best friends, Devonta Freeman, will begin his junior season in the Seminoles backfield. He’s also a former standout at Central.

Freeman and Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Anthony Gaitor, Pollard’s godbrother, were the ones to convince Pollard to follow through on his dream.

“When I got to high school I thought, ‘How could I play football with a vision problem?’ ” Pollard said. “I talked to my friends, and they said I should do it and make history.”

Read more Miami-Dade High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category