Student-athlete overcomes disability to play at UTA

MISSOURI CITY, Texas -- When Fabian Romo signed his letter of intent with UT Arlington, he said something remarkable.

He thanked God for his disability. Thanked him because, he said, the disability made him who he is and led him to this equally-remarkable day.

Romo, 17, was born with a birth defect called proximal focal femoral deficiency (PFFD), which left him without a fully-formed left leg. By the time he was four years old, the limb had to be amputated just above the knee.

He grew up knowing only a life in wheelchairs or hobbling around on a prosthetic leg -- a "robot leg," he calls it now. But he never let it be an excuse to not lead a normal life.

"Having a prosthetic doesn't make you different than anybody else," Romo said. "Any type of disability, you're just another person in the world."

Three years ago, Romo's world changed when he was introduced to wheelchair basketball. He joined the TIRR Memorial Herman Jr. Hot Wheels team, was named second-team All-American, and helped lead the team to a 2013 national championship.

Then he got a call from the Movin Mavs at UTA.

"I'm excited to be getting Fabian," said UTA wheelchair basketball coach Doug Garner. "He's one of the players that I think is going to lead our team in the next five years."

The Movin Mavs have won seven national championships in wheelchair basketball. They regularly offer full-ride scholarships to their players, who come from all over the United States and from all over the world.

Thursday, they signed their next player to a full-ride scholarship: Elkins High School senior and Missouri City's own Fabian Romo.

"You feel so powerful when you push. And just being able to be faster than someone," Romo said of the reason he loves wheelchair basketball.

Romo signed on to join the team on a full-ride scholarship Thursday at Elkins High School.

"I don't have words to describe," he said prior to the Thursday signing ceremony. "I'm just thankful for all this."

Surrounded by his extended family, the first-generation American signed his letter of intent in the Elkins High School library to a standing ovation from his classmates, his family, and friends.

Then, his mom talked about the angel he has been to their entire family.

"She's always seen me as a kid who could overcome the things no matter what, despite my disability," Romo said. "And making her proud is something I'm really proud of."

There are as few as 10 scholarships a year for student-athletes like Fabian. That's what UTA is trying to change.

"To know that we're helping people with disabilities reach their potential as a person, and use basketball as a vehicle to get their education, it's very rewarding," Garner said.

As for what Fabian plans to do with his full-ride scholarship, he plans to major in biomedical engineering, aim for a career in orthopedics, and help design and build assistive devices for other people just like him.

So Romo is hoping to help lead others down that same path to success.


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