Offensive linemen like Max Vicuña need a certain mentality to deal with the unavoidable daily punishment that is life in the trenches.
“If the task is hard, I’m going to keep fighting for it," the John Jay High School senior said. "If I know that I can do it, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities.”
He is exactly what Mustangs head coach Gary Gutierrez wants out of his players.
“The things we preach [at John Jay] are effort, attitude, and toughness. Controllables, things that kids control, and he controls all those things.”
The "controllables," as coach says, are easy for Vicuña. It’s what he can’t control that makes life tough on the field.
“My condition is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It’s inflammation in the joints," Vicuña said.
In the sixth grade, the starting guard was diagnosed with a condition that affects just 50,000 children in the U.S., according to KidsHealth.org. His football days seemed to be over.
“My father gave me the decision to either quit with my condition or to keep playing. I chose to keep playing," Vicuña recalled.
Offensive linemen need a certain mentality for the daily punishment in the trenches, but no one takes a beating like Vicuña.“The thing with my pain is it hurts when I get in my position a lot. All the squatting down, it hurts. When I’m in the weight room squatting, I have to take a quick break.”
Vicuña’s medication consists of two daily pills and constant treatment. Despite the pain, he has never missed a practice.
“I just learned to deal with it," he said. "I just knew that I wasn’t going to give up because of it. It wasn’t going to stop me from doing what I like to be doing.”