“He loves football, and we love him:” QB’s twin brother inspires Hamilton High School football team

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MILWAUKEE -- The FOX6 Sports Team has shared "Beyond the Game" stories in the past about twins who play on the same team. Hector Rodriguez would give anything to make that possible for his twin. But this is a story that proves you don't have to be able to participate to make a difference that will last a lifetime.

The Hamilton High School Wildcats had a season to remember. They won a conference championship for just the third time in almost 50 years.

Hamilton High School QB Hector Rodriguez

Hamilton High School QB Hector Rodriguez

QB Hector Rodriguez played a key role. The junior QB and linebacker just wishes he could have shared it on the field with twin brotherĀ Gilbert.

"I know if he could be with me right now, playing the sport I play, he would be right beside me. We would just be twins just knocking out this conference together. He inspires me so much -- because through his whole life, I've seen him struggle, but yet he recovers and he still has a smile on his face. When I play, I don't only play for myself and my team. I play for my brother," Hector Rodriguez said.

Gilbert and Hector Rodriguez

Gilbert and Hector Rodriguez

"Hector actually had it first -- the RSV virus. It's a respiratory virus in preemies -- and then Gilbert ended up getting it. He got the worst of it," Nicole Rodriguez, the boys' mother said.

As a single mother of five children, Nicole Rodriguez is beating the odds -- something Gilbert Rodriguez has done almost from day one.

He was on life support for a month-and-a-half -- and there would be many more trials for Gilbert Rodriguez and his family to endure. He developed a staph infection that caused gangrene in his leg.

Gilbert and Hector Rodriguez

Gilbert and Hector Rodriguez

"He ended up losing his toes -- except for one, and also with his thumb and his finger. Back then they wanted to amputate, and I said 'no, he's still got growing to do,'" Nicole Rodriguez said.

Today, Gilbert Rodriguez is a compassionate, caring 16-year-old boy. Nicole Rodriguez says her son has the mind of a toddler.

Recently, Gilbert Rodriguez had to have part of his leg amputated -- but no challenge or surgery or level of pain has ever thrown him for a loss.

Hector and Gilbert Rodriguez

Hector and Gilbert Rodriguez

"He doesn't let anything stop him from doing anything. He keeps pushing himself. He pushes me sometimes, you know?" Nicole Rodriguez said.

Along the way, Gilbert Rodriguez achieved milestones. For example, learning to tie his shoes, and to use his words.

"My goal was, I wanted him to say 'I love you, Mom.' Then one day he said it. It was heart-wrenching. I wasn't even broken about it. I was just 'he said it!'" Nicole Rodriguez said.

In his own special way, Gilbert Rodriguez became as big a part of the Hamilton High School football team as twin brother Hector.

Gilbert Rodriguez

Gilbert Rodriguez

"He's been a great inspiration for us -- and a motivator. He's a really great friend, and you know, I love him like a brother. He's really impacted me greatly," Jaime Hernandez, senior captain linebacker said.

"He taught me about family, basically -- because you can't judge a book by its cover. He's just like one of us. He loves football, and we love him," Matthew Lee-Baker, senior wide receiver said.

"Injuries aren't a problem anymore, because when you see Gilbert out there, he's dealing with a lot more than we are," Hamilton High School Coach Jake Haskell said.

Gilbert was heartbroken when his surgery caused him to miss the game where Hamilton clinched their championship -- but when the game was over, Hector Rodriguez and his teammates brought the trophy and the football to the hospital so he could share their glory.

Gilbert Rodriguez

Gilbert Rodriguez

"He just hugged every one of them for a period of time and he just cried in their arms, and I told them, I said 'you don't know, like, when you guys think that you don't make a difference, this is living proof,'" Nicole Rodriguez said. "I don't think I will ever be able to thank them enough for what they've done for him."

When it comes to Gilbert Rodriguez -- gratitude is a two-way street.

"The strength that he has, it's not of this world," Nicole Rodriguez said.

Hector and Gilbert Rodriguez

Hector and Gilbert Rodriguez

The 2003 movie "Radio" was based on the true story of a mentally-challenged young man who inspired a high school and its football team.

Gilbert Rodriguez is Hamilton High School's version of "Radio."

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