Listening to Adonis Watt talk about his life and aspirations, he comes across like any 14-year-old high school football player might.
PHOENIX — Listening to Adonis Watt talk about his life and aspirations, he comes across like any 14-year-old high school football player might.
He just happens to raise money for good causes. He also happens to be blind.
The Brophy College Prep running back lost his sight when he was five years old. Since then, he’s carried on with his life the way that he likely otherwise would have. But his vision impairment has led him to experiences that have helped raise several thousand dollars for the Foundation for Blind Children, which provides services for those with little or no vision.
Watt has participated in Night for Sight charity dinners, fundraised at Barrett Jackson auctions and run in an Annual Stride for Sight 5K alongside Dave Grounds, a philanthropist who serves as both his guide and his sponsor.
Not only has he run in 5K races to raise money, he’s performed well in them. One year, he earned a medal for a podium finish.
The truth is, Watt is a talented athlete all-around. He runs track and has won sprint races. He wrestled last year and was No. 2 in the state for his weight class. And, of course, he plays football at his high school.
None of that has been hindered by his vision impairment.
“When he was almost seven (years old), he said, ‘I don’t want anymore surgery, because I am not sick,’” Adonis’ mom, Veronica, said. “‘And I don’t need to be fixed, and I can see, I can hear, I can taste, I can smell. I see different. I can see in my own way.’”
In following his own aspirations, Adonis is living his own life and serving others while he’s at it.
“Just to show people that being blind is not really a disability, it’s just a diagnosis,” he said. “And to like, just help blind people get out there and do what they’ve got to do.
“I’ve done a lot. I guess you could consider me like a representative for the blind community. I’ve been on global TV, people out of the country’s been inspired. I’ve even seen a couple videos on YouTube on me. So I’m not just being seen here. I’m being seen all around the world.”
People haven’t tried to dissuade Adonis’ parents, Marvin and Veronica, from letting their son play football, a dangerous sport even for those with full vision.
“We’ve only had people inspired and people like, ‘Wow, if he can do that, surely I can go on a job interview.’ ‘If he can do that, surely I can sign up for P.E.’ ‘If he can do that, I can be on time for class tomorrow,’” Veronica explained. “I thought it was going to inspire visually-impaired athletes for sure, but he’s really turned out to inspire just regular athletes.”
Maybe Adonis playing sports was meant to be. Maybe it runs in the family.
Marvin played football into his high school days. Veronica was a cheerleader for the Arizona Cardinals. And Adonis’ brother, Jordan, is a defensive end at Chadron State College in Nebraska.
In fact, Jordan said he wanted to coach Adonis when he was first getting into football. So he stood on the sidelines with a microphone while Adonis wore an earpiece, and Jordan would help guide Adonis down the field and tell him when to get down to avoid a tackle.
But Adonis wouldn’t avoid the tackle. He just took them, instead.
Veronica tried to make her son play center, where he wouldn’t take as many tackles. But eventually, Adonis got his way, playing as a running back and even producing at that position, scoring touchdowns regularly.
“I try to let him do what he wants to do,” Marvin Watt said. “I don’t try to hold him back, but when he wanted to play football in high school, it’s kind of like a different level, you know? He’s doing great. I feel better now about it. But at first, I was like, ‘Well, high school is a little — they really start hitting in high school.’ He can handle it. He’s got the physical tools to deal with it. I’m alright with it now.”
Early on, Adonis even talked his mom into working instead of staying home to take care of her son.
“Why aren’t you working? I’m blind, I’m not sick,” Adonis told his mom at the time. “It doesn’t hurt. You need to go to work.”
Adonis’ courage and service to his community have allowed him to gather unique experiences along the way. At one point, he and a small group of other young people accepted a $1 million dollar donation from the Diamondbacks on behalf of the Foundation for Blind Children. On another occasion, Adonis and a few others visited the White House and attend a focus group with then-President Barack Obama.
“That was pretty cool, I liked it,” Adonis said, quiet and modest in demeanor.
Adoins’ eventual goal? To make it to the NFL. In the meantime, he’d like to go to college at one of a few schools that he preferred — one of them being ASU — and he’d like to major in mass communications.
Maybe that way, when the NFL career is over, he can be an analyst on TV or radio.
“They say if you go to work for the rest of your life and you love it, you’ll never work a day,” he said. “So you’ve got to do something you love.”