Joe Zavala calls himself a stump among trees on the football field.
The Newport Harbor High freshman is listed at 238 pounds. He's also just 5-foot-6, so the nose guard position on the defensive line fits him well.
But even stumps have roots, and Joe Zavala's are so strong.
Fans who watch the Sailors' freshman football games will see No. 65 play relentless, never giving up. Yet, very few of those people know the challenges he's overcome.
Joe is autistic. He was diagnosed when he was just 2 years old.
And, by the way, it defines him less than ever.
"We don't talk about it anymore," said his mother, Peggy Zavala. "There's no reason to. He catches it before it gets too bad anymore."
The Zavalas decided not to let the Newport Harbor coaching staff know about Joe's condition at the start of the season. Coach Joe Urban said he was surprised when he found out.