Behind The Scenes

Next SC Featured focuses on unique bond between wrestler, 7, and his mentor

The first time Lauren Stowell met Isaiah Bird and Miguel Rodriguez, she knew the two had a bond and a special relationship.

Stowell, a producer in ESPN’s Features Unit, was in the early stages of producing an SC Featured segment that will debut in Sunday’s editions of SportsCenter (ESPN, beginning at 10 a.m. ET with re-airs throughout the day). “Isaiah Bird: No Excuses” tells the story of Bird, a seven-year-old wrestler from Long Beach, N.Y., who was born without legs, and Rodriguez, his coach, mentor and much more.


“When I met Miguel, I knew he was just an incredible guy,” said Stowell. “You could see the love he had for Isaiah, the commitment to his well-being and his welfare.

“And Isaiah’s personality was larger than life,” she said. “I came back from the first meeting and let everyone know these two people have a very special bond and that was evident from the very first time I met them.”

Rodriguez, as reporter Tom Rinaldi explains in the feature, is not only a wrestling coach. He also works fulltime as a teaching assistant and a classroom aide for Isaiah, who is in the second grade. While Isaiah’s mother and father share Isaiah’s custody and are in his life, the family fell into hard times. Soon Rodriguez, who has his own family, including a 14-year-old son, began playing a larger role in Isaiah’s life.

“I think what stood out and what was important for us to show in the story was Miguel’s commitment and kind of the responsibility he has to essentially be part-time caretaker for Isaiah,” said Stowell, who has been with ESPN since November 2006.

“It was very, very important for us to accurately portray that relationship,” she said. “There are a lot of nights that [Isaiah] spends with Miguel and Miguel’s family, which we see in the piece. And the care that he takes for Isaiah: He brushes his teeth in the morning, he gets him dressed, makes sure that he gets proper rest, he cuts his nails, he gets his hair cut, he makes sure he’s safe when he’s in the car, and when he’s getting to and from school, and on top of that, all of his care during the school day is Miguel’s responsibility as well.

“This is something he’s taken on because, as he said, he took him under his wing because that’s just what you do when someone needs help, so that was important for us to get across,” she said.

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