Alex Ruiz, a quarterback for Linfield Christian High School in Temecula, California, suffered a catastrophic injury last fall that resulted in the loss of his leg. Last weekend, Ruiz got help from an unexpected source: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Through the Football N’ America flag football league that Brees founded, the Saints QB provided Ruiz with his first prosthetic walking leg, and a promise to pay for an athletic one later this year.
“If there’s anything above Cloud Nine, that’s where I’m at right now,” Ruiz told reporters at the presentation. Ruiz, who grew up watching Brees play for the then-San Diego Chargers, wears No. 9 in Brees’s honor. Last fall, Ruiz dislocated his knee during a tackle, severing an artery and cutting off blood flow to his leg for 11 hours. In February, Ruiz made the decision to amputate his leg.
See the Saints quarterback through the years:
Drew Brees through his NFL career
Drew Brees through his NFL career
Charger rookie quarterback and first round draft pick Drew Brees watches the action from the sidelines during the season opener against the Redskins in San Diego on Sept.9, 2001. The Chargers won 30ï¿½3. (Photo by Vince Compagnone/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
7 NOV 2002: San Diego Chargers Drew Brees during a game against San Francisco 49ers at the Qualcomm Stadium Sunday November 7, 2002, in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
28 Sept 2003: Drew Brees of the San Diego Chargers during Chargers 34-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban (R) sacks San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees as the snow falls during the first quarter of NFL action in Cleveland, Ohio December 19, 2004. REUTERS/Ron Schwane RS/GN
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 24: Jimmy Wilkerson #96 of the Kansas City Chiefs reaches for Drew Brees #9 of the San Diego Chargers as he runs the ball in the first half of the game on December 24, 2005 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images)
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees during the first half of the Saints 23-3 win over Atlanta Monday, September 25, 2006, at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees accepts the NFL Player of the Year award in Miami, Florida January 31, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson (19) and quarterback Drew Brees celebrate after defeating Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-20 in their NFL football game in New Orleans September 7, 2008. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES)
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees celebrates his team's overtime win against the Washington Redskins in Landover, MD, December 6, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton applauds as quarterback Drew Brees holds up the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Indianapolis Colts to win the NFL's Super Bowl XLIV football game in Miami, Florida in this February 7, 2010 file photo. Proposals to extend the National Football League (NFL) season by two games have not been thought through and could lead to more injuries and curtailed careers, say players. Picture taken February 7, 2010. To match Feature NFL-SCHEDULE. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 19: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks on from the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens on December 19, 2010 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.The Ravens defeated the Saints 30 to 24. (Photo by: Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is lifted by guard Carl Nicks (77) after setting a new NFL single season passing record of 5087 yards, surpassing Dan Marino's 5084 yards, with a touchdown pass to Darren Sproles against the Atlanta Falcons during their NFL football game in New Orleans, Louisiana December 26, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) gets away from Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher (97) in the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, December 23, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. (Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22: Greg Hardy #76 of the Carolina Panthers goes after Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank against the Carolina Panthers of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Sep 28, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) runs with the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) reacts after throwing his seventh touchdown pass of the game during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Giants 52-49. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; NFC quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (9) passes against the AFC during the second half of the 2017 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after throwing a touchdown pass against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Brees connected with Ruiz through Football N’ America, a charitable flag football organization he began in Louisiana and expanded to San Diego. FNA worked with Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps athletes fighting back from traumatic injury, to identify Ruiz.
Brees already knew of Ruiz through a mutual friend; Brees sent a jersey Ruiz’s way last fall. “In the back of my mind, I said to myself, ‘I hope I get a chance to meet this young man someday,'” Brees said at the recent event. “Alex has suffered a long and very difficult road but has remained so positive and insists this set of circumstances will not hold him back. He still has loftier goals than ever for his athletic career and beyond. We wanted to help his dreams come true.”
____ Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.