MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If there is one thing Coach John Murillo hopes for his football team to learn this season is what it takes to be a champion.

The defensive back coach at Barbara Goleman Senior High may not have a fist full of championship rings or an All-American lineup but he’s got a heck of a lot of fight.

Click here to watch David Sutta’s report. 

Just before the team took on a powerhouse team he gathered the team in the locker-room. The team took a knee and closed their eyes.

“Today gentleman I’m honored to coach you.  I’m honored to take you into the field of battle. But there is another honor that is bestowed upon you, and that is the answer that comes with that question, who am I?” said Coach Murillo.

“I am a champion,” said the team.

“That’s right,” said Murillo. “Don’t forget it.”

Murillo allowed CBS Miami to film his pre-game ritual; a passionate speech that embodies the sport and so much more.

“No one will deny me.  No one will define me.  No one will deny what I can and cannot be.  Belief will change my world,” said Murillo. “It has moved continents and countries and put men on the moon and will carry me through this battle.  Who am I?”

“I am a champion!”yelled the boys.

CBS4’s David Sutta asked what goes through Murillo’s mind when he gave the speech.

“Oh it brings me right back.  I always see him,” said Murillo.  “I always see him by the computer.”

‘Him’ is Rick Murillo, the coach’s son.

Rick was just 23-years old when brain cancer took his life.

“I knew it was hard for him.  A young man at 19 getting that diagnosis and fighting through it until he was 23,” said Murillo. “And it was tough for us.  It was especially tough for a parent to have to bury his child.”

At just 5 foot 7, 180 pounds, Rick didn’t let his size define him on the field.  He won a district championship and played college football.

When cancer sidelined him, he didn’t let that define him either.  He coached and got his college degree.

In his final days Rick drew strength, sitting by the computer, listening to a speech called “I Am A Champion.”

“I will conquer what has not been conquered. I will believe what others have doubted.  All these words in that speech symbolize what this boy was all about,” said Murillo.

For three years since, Coach Murillo has led the speech in the locker room.

“Some people say ‘you keep reliving it John.’  It’s not that. It’s how I keep his legacy alive.  Because I want these kids to understand what he was about,” said Murillo. “I want to instill what he had in them.”

This summer, life challenged Murillo again. This time it was cancer in his leg.

“I couldn’t believe, here we go again,” said Murillo.

Just three weeks after the doctors removed an eight inch tumor, he was back on the field.  Why?

“Because I wanted to set the example. ‘Leaders do it first,’” said Murillo. “I want them to see what I’ve been through and say if coach can go through that so can I.”

Back in the locker room, the kids were fired up. Coach Murillo yelled at the top of his lungs.

“History will remember me.  I will not have to worry about him being kind, I will define myself.  I will ride my own praises and no one will tell me what I can and cannot be.  I will never go home, not without giving everything I’ve got.  Who am I?” said Murillo.

“I am champion!” said the team.

“Who am I?” asked Murillo.

“I am champion!” said the team.

“Who am I?”asked Murillo.

“I am a champion!” said the team.

So far it’s been a tough season.  The Goleman Gators are actually hoping to get their first win of the season Friday night.  Win or lose, Murillo hopes the lessons of being a champion on the field apply to the kids for life.


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