Emmanuel Hilton is a 17-year-old soccer goalie at Blackhawk High School in Chippewa, Pa.
Emmanuel, however, was born without his lower legs. Despite this, the bright young man, who was adopted from an orphanage in the Republic of Congo, continues to kill the game as a backup goalkeeper for his school's junior varsity team, WPXI reports.
“I watched so many games, people playing soccer, and I said, ‘Someday I can play soccer,’” the tenacious teen told the news station.
Emmanuel was left behind by his birth mother because of his disability. His grandmother took care of him, but he was eventually placed in an orphanage.
“My real mom—[when] I was born—they throw me on the road. They didn’t like me because I was handicapped. They didn’t want to care for me. It was too much trouble,” he told the news station. “I couldn’t go to school. Every school didn’t like me because I was handicapped.”
However, someone saw potential in the hardworking boy. Michelle Hilton saw his picture in a church newsletter about five years ago and was determined to help him.
“He just looked joyful, and that stuck with me. He was in my mind. I couldn’t forget it,” she said.
Michelle Hilton and her husband, the Rev. Gary Hilton, decided to adopt him, even though it took four years for the process to be completed. Emmanuel has been living in the U.S. for just under a year. However, he was quickly embraced by the Hiltons and his new teammates.
“My life right now is very happy,” Emmanuel said.
The team sees him working hard and is only encouraged to push harder, according to coach Bryan Vitali.
“He inspires so many guys,” Vitali told KDKA. “He inspires me to come out and do my job better. The guys see him moving and they pick up their intensity. He’s completely exceeded our expectations.”
“Just him being part of a team environment, it’s just something. Words are hard to articulate what that feeling is, but it’s good,” Hilton added.
As for Emmanuel, all his past worries have melted away and the future certainly looks bright. “It doesn’t matter to me. I can do anything. I can do anything right now,” he said.