What's Right: Wheelchair-bound football manager inspires fellow students at St. John's


by Sherry Williams / KHOU 11 News


Posted on October 26, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 26 at 6:21 PM

HOUSTON -- A teenager at one of Houston’s top private schools is ending his career. For six years, he’s been the manager for the St. John’s Mavericks.

Elliott Lapin is at every practice, every game.

"During the game I take defensive stats for the team," Lapin said.

He’s been with them since seventh grade.

"He does everything for us. He’s our manager, our statistician, assistant coach," said Steve Gleaves, St. John’s head football coach.

"He does more to help the team than some of the other guys on the team who can play," said Christopher Gow, St. John’s quarterback.

Elliott is a senior now. St. John’s football season is ending, so is his six-year career at manager.

The disease that put Elliott in a wheelchair at age 10 was popularized in the 1992 Oscar-nominated film, "Lorenzo’s Oil."

Tragically, the same disease that disabled Elliott took his brother Oliver’s life.

Elliott is not one to engage in self-pity. He chooses to look on the bright side of life. One of his greatest joys is sports, especially football. He said since he can’t be in the game, he’s glad to be close to the action.

"So many awesome teammates and I really enjoy just the experience. I didn’t want to miss out on this experience," Lapin said.

Whether he knows it or not, Elliott’s classmates have watched him through the years and learned some life lessons from him.

"He drove to school and I remember watching him getting out of his car and thinking about what I had done that morning and watching the struggle that he had just to get out of his car one morning," Gow said. "And I was inspired by his perseverance and I hadn’t really thought about the struggle that he goes through every day."

"I’ve never, obviously, faced anything like he has, especially losing his brother," said Jack Craddock, defensive end. "It’s inspiring to see the fact that he comes to school every day. He’s happy."

"He always just keeps such a positive attitude, in class, on the field," said Douglas Berkman, outside linebacker.

There’s one player on the team who really has a special appreciation for what it’s like for Elliott to spend the games on the sidelines.

Nick Cassata learned last year that he has a brain/spinal cord disorder that could leave him paralyzed if he takes a bad hit. Since that revelation, he is limited to only snapping the ball. Otherwise, he’s on the sidelines with Elliott.

"I really could understand like what he was going through, because, you know, it’s a huge time commitment. It really is," Cassata said. "Especially, for going to St. John’s and having so much work all the time. You’re just out here to support the team. That’s a big commitment."

Before long, Elliott will head off to college. He’s an honor-roll student and National Merit Scholar Semifinalist, so he’ll have his pick of schools.

He’s hoping to attend a school that will allow him to also contribute to the football program.

"I think that the message for anybody out there is, you take what you’ve got and you make the most of it and try to follow your dreams," said Elliott’s father, Bobby Lapin.