KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – A teenager without a true family and without a real home is finding success through his community and the game of football. Jonathon Munoz’s success continues to be the work of caring community members. The Dykstra family took him in when he was in 8th grade and in trouble. The Navarro family houses Jonathon as he finishes high school. The Lane family continues to provide all methods of support, but the help didn’t stop there. Throughout Jonathon’s journey, Bev Hassell and Integral Youth Services provided additional support, like maintaining his housing, helping with school supplies and offering box lunches.
“I remember being really impressed with his sincerity and his stated goals,” Hassell says. “He knew as a youth what he wanted, and he has certainly taken the steps to make that happen. He’s done it with support of course, but he had a very stated goal when he came in and I first met him, and that’s what he has done ever since. From my experience with the youth that we generally meet, it’s out of the realm of norm.”
According to those around him, that self-determination is what sets Jonathon apart.
“He’s got that drive,” his girlfriend’s mother, Carrie Lane, says. “He’s got that inner drive. So yes, there are things and issues, but we all have things and issues. What he has different from others is just that inner spark, that inner drive to succeed.”
“He’s an unusual kid,” one of his supporters, Lisa Dykstra, says. “I’ve never seen somebody fight this hard to make it.”
Early on Jonathon identified football as his ticket to that success. He learned the game from his grandfather.
“Every time I play football, every time I’m getting ready for a game, I think of him,” Munoz says. “Honestly, going back and thinking through it, I feel like the only reason I stayed with sports is because my grandpa wanted me to.”
He’s better off for it. Football kept him out of trouble.
“He said, ‘This is not what I want,'” Dykstra says. “That’s almost verbatim of what he said. He said I don’t want this lifestyle. I want to succeed. I want to go and play college football. I don’t know how to do it, but I know I’m not getting there doing this.”
Plus, football taught him discipline.
“As a man, sometimes you have to be assertive and maybe even aggressive,” Mazama head coach Vic Lease says, “but it’s controlled, not anything that’s going to get you in trouble or get you a 15-yarder or get you tossed out of the game, or as a grown man, put you in jail.”
“I knew that regardless of what I was oing through,”Jonathon says, “football, if I was good enough to make it further, that it was my way out.”
“He’s not succeeding because of me or any of the coaches,” Mazama counselor Mike Rooney says. “He’s doing it because he decided that’s who he wants to be.”
By all accounts Jonathon is out of that life. He’s an honors student, star athlete and surrounded by a loving cast.
“We traveled in a rainstorm to get there to watch him,” Lane says,” and be there in the stands to help support him and let him know that there are people out there rooting for his success.”
However, when he suits up on Friday nights, there’s a notable absence in the stands.
“I want my family to be there,” Munoz says. “I want my mom to be there. I actually want my own family because even though I became close with other families, the Navarros and the Lanes, it’s just like, where’s mine?”
There’s no telling if Jonathon’s grandfather or mother will ever show up for one of his games, but that won’t stop him from playing. He’s already had numerous talks with college coaches and plans on continuing his football career next year.