Julio Fuentes gave new meaning to “Saxon Strong.”
When he stepped foot on A.U.’s campus in 2005, Julio became the first person in his family to go to college. While working towards a degree in criminal justice, he chased another passion: football. Wearing his #20 jersey–the same number he’d had at Olean High–he played as a backup tailback for the Saxons.
For the 2006 season opener, Alfred held a home game against Theil College. Julio, then a sophomore, was ready to help his team win. After a kickoff play, he collided with a Theil defender and collapsed on Merrill field. The injury paralyzed him from the neck down. Doctors thought he would never walk again.
But Julio was persistent. His family and community supported him as he completed grueling physical therapy sessions. Ten years after the injury, he accomplished what had seemed impossible: Julio walked off Merrill field with the crowd cheering his name.