MANLIUS, N.Y. -- “Wheelchairs are like cars," Fayetteville-Manlius coach Paul Muench reads. "They are meant to get people from place to place. But they are also very different than cars. They don’t tell you anything about the people who rely on them to get around."
In the case of Fayetteville-Manlius senior Joey Pagano, there’s a lot to tell.
"He says he’s a lot more than what he looks like, and I agree with that 100 percent,” teammate and friend Andrew Testani said.
Joey has cerebral palsy. For him, the disability is just physical. It doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves -- like being a part of the F-M football team.
“The kids think the world of him, he’s certainly a big part of our team, this year especially with coming to practices and so on,” Muench said.
Joey says he’s built strong relationships with many of his teammates and coaches. He’s known some of them since the first grade. While Joey may not play in the games, his up close view of the team does help him pursue another one of his passions.
“I love to write,” he said.
Joey said he started writing at a young age. A few years ago, he created a sports blog, the Wheelchair Quarterback. In the blog, he posts previews and recaps from F-M games.
“I’m really amazed at how he gets the finer points and the nuance," Muench said. "He always picks out what I think are the big plays of the game.”
Joey writes that keeping a blog helps him pursue a dream of working at ESPN. But his blog, and the message, are about more than him. It’s here where his voice truly comes through.
“Some people like to allow themselves to have preconceived opinion about those who spend their days in a wheelchair,” Joey writes.
Joey often writes about how having a disability doesn’t hold him back. He said as a disabled person who can talk and type, he feels it’s his duty to be an advocate for those who can’t.
“We have to stop allowing somebody’s wheelchair to alter what we think of them," he writes.
“And I think that’s why when you hear our guys, we rarely talk about that aspect of Joey,” Muench said.
Because for everything that Joey is - there may be one thing that defines him best. Joey is, without a doubt, just one of the guys.
"He’s a hardworking kid, and he’s overcome a physical impairment, and I’m impressed,” Testani said.
Joey said he hopes to attend Syracuse University after high school, where he wants to pursue his dream at Newhouse.