It’s hard to argue that anyone has been more involved in the New Orleans sports scene over the course of the past year than Jarrius Robertson. Robertson, 15, has been known by New Orleans Saints fans for a while. Over the course of the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans, the nation got a acquainted with him when he interviewed NBA players. Jarrius, who suffers chronic liver disease, has become a fixture in Louisiana sports, and there’s rarely a local game that goes by without him popping up.
At the ESPYs, Jarrius got the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. Previous recipients of the award include Craig Sager, Stuart Scott, and George Karl. Jarrius recognizes the company that he’s sharing.
“When I first heard the news I thought I was dreaming!” Robertson said in a statement. “The ESPYS? For real? The past two years have been a blessing in so many ways for me and my family. I have been able to do things I never thought I would be able to do. But to be included with Craig Sager, Stuart Scott, Leah and Devon Still, Eric LeGrand and the man himself, Jimmy V, is truly amazing and I am really grateful and humbled.”
Of course, those who have been following Jarrius know that he’s got some bite to him. The honorary Saint beefed with Charles Barkley, told Russell Westbrook how to make the playoffs, and got really fed up with journalists stealing his shine when he just wanted to interview John Wall. Jarrius also takes over the Saints Snapchat account frequently, sharing videos of himself at team practices.
The interviews and goofy appearances come between hospital visits for Jarrius. John DeShazier, the Saints’ senior writer for the franchise’s website, is responsible in no small part for Jarrius’s prominence, along with the Saints themselves. On Christmas Day 2015, DeShazier wrote an article on Jarrius about a visit from several Saints players at the Ochsner Hospital for Children. Even then, Jarrius’s attitude was noticeable. “If you’re waiting for Jarrius Robertson to mope you should pull up a chair, get comfortable, and settle in because it could take a while,” DeShazier wrote.
Jarrius was diagnosed with biliary atresia, which results in abnormally narrow bile ducts in the liver. He’s had over 10 surgeries to date, and he’ll continue to need more as time goes on. In April, he received a new liver. In spite of his condition (although he’d likely argue because of it), Jarrius’s upbeat attitude isn’t just a personality front. Players immediately fell in love with Jarrius’s energy and attitude, and he was invited to the team’s practice facility in Metairie. From there, he kept on showing up to events, and he has become recognizable to anyone that has followed New Orleans sports. The Saints surprised him with a contract in October last year, making him their official “hype man” against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jarrius doesn’t need a contract to be hype, if anything it’s a bonus. He presented the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award to Jordy Nelson back in February, albeit reluctantly. He also kicked Ryen Russillo off of his own radio show.
The fact is, there’s too much Jarrius positivity to list everything that he’s done. Google “Jarrius Robertson” and you’ll get dozens of stories of him lightly ribbing someone or doing something with athletes that few people even consider possible when they’re 15. He takes these larger than life figures, and even though he comes up to their waists, he puts himself on their level. There’s a reason that he’s involved in every major sporting event these days: He’s just fun. It’s such an underrated trait, but he embodies it. A 15-year-old kid sharing an honor with the likes of Craig Sager and Stuart Scott, let alone an honor named after Jim Valvano, sounds so unlikely. What’s even crazier is that he deserves it.
He never lets his condition get him down, he embraces it. He keeps fans updated on his surgeries, and he makes them care. All of New Orleans, and now all of the sporting world, has a vested interest in Jarrius Robertson’s health. If he had never appeared on the scene in 2015, sports would simply be less fun. Which isn’t an indictment of the sporting world, it’s a testament to the energy that Jarrius brings. People often talk about athletes as them being “just big kids out there.” But Jarrius is an actual kid. And he deserves all of the recognition that he’s received to this point, in addition to all of the recognition that he’ll receive going forward.