Local 7th Grader Inspires Football Team

By Melissa Newton, CBS 11 News

LAKE HIGHLANDS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Lake Highlands 7th grader, diagnosed with a crippling disorder, is overcoming the disability to participate in the game he loves. And, in doing so, is having a big impact on his classmates.

Brandon Landis has been the manager of the Lake Highlands Junior High football team all season. “I fill up the water bottles, and I help the coaches with whatever they need,” he explained.

Playing the sport used to be easy for the 12-year-old, but a few years ago, at a football camp, he developed symptoms of what his family later learned was Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation, or NBIA, a rare disorder that’s caused Brandon to lose control of his muscles.

Brandon’s father, Drew Landis, used to coach his son in soccer and said he was a natural athlete. “He was just one of those kids that could just do it.” Then one day everything changed. “Seeing it, like a switch, after that football camp, it was tough. It was really, really tough,” recalled Drew.

Brandon’s cognitive ability hasn’t changed, but he’s lost physical control of the right side of his body and has trouble speaking. “He’ll have peaks and he’ll have valleys,” his mother, Melissa Landis said, “he’s right handed, and it’s affected his right side so he doesn’t write at all.”

But Brandon hasn’t let his disability keep him out of athletics. Along with the team, he is at every football practice and game, proudly performing his duties as a manager and student coach.

At the team’s final game of the season, Wednesday, he’ll suit up and play, for the first time. “It’s going to be a very wonderful moment that we can look back on and cherish,” his father said. “Emotional,” his mother added, “it will remind us of when he used to play.”

Brandon’s teammates aren’t surprised that their classmate will be suiting up. “He’s really lived life like he doesn’t even have it [NBIA],” said Brandon’s lifelong friend, TJ Churchill. “He’s never really let anything stop him.”

“He’s just fun to be around,” said 7th grader Hunter Punjak, who admits he has learned a lot from Brandon, “just take chances and be yourself.”

Brandon’s mother says peer support for her son has made a big difference. “They don’t see the disorder he has, they see Brandon,” Melissa said, fighting back tears. “As a mom, that means the world.”

To the team, who hasn’t lost a game all season, Brandon is more than the manager; he’s a friend and their motivation to succeed. Football coach Darrell Jones understands Brandon’s drive. “He just wants to be one of the guys, and he is.”

On whether that determination has had an impact on other players, Coach Jones said, “When he shows up and he’s smiling and he’s happy it just gives them inspiration to practice hard.”

Now, Brandon waits for the big day. “He’s excited and scared to get out on the field Wednesday,” Coach Jones said. “In the end, he knows it’s just a game, though and as in life, you aren’t in it alone.”

Knowing he is not alone, Brandon’s goals are clear. “Play football and have fun,” Brandon said, “because of God and my friends and family, they help me out with whatever I need.”

There is no cure for Brandon’s disorder. Click here to learn more about Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation and follow along with Brandon on his journey.


One Comment

  1. DJ says:

    God bless you, young man… What an inspiration to all of us!

  2. Marlene Hay says:

    You are amazing! God is good all the time! Marlene

  3. Coach Vanderveen says:

    Brandon, you are an inspiration to us all. God bless you! …and GO WILDCATS!

  4. Louanne Crim says:

    Go get ’em Brandon!!!!! This is Mrs. Crim from CCDC that met you and your Mom when you were a little boy. Your Mom always wanted to sing with you and you would encourage her not to sing!!!!!
    I am so proud of all of you and your LH football team for all the loving support. All there is, is love and you certainly have it from your wonderful family.
    Have fun at your game and take care.
    Love, Louanne Crim

  5. JUDY WATTS says:


  6. LHJH Student says:

    Keep up the hard work, Brandon. Your smile is contagious at LHJH!

  7. Tanner Smith - LHJH Student says:

    Brandon your the best guy I’ve ever met. I love seeing your smile everday in the halls at school. Good luck at the game tonight… GO CATS!!!

  8. haley says:

    hey i know brandon he goes to my school and hes totally cool

  9. Susan Ruth says:

    You have not only inspired kids,but adults as well. God is working through you to change other people. I admire your attitude and commmitment. You have the wildcat spirit in your bones and in your heart.

    Ms Ruth

  10. cindy rieder says:

    I have seen Brandon at LHJH and he seems like a charming and wonderful young man. Brandon has a smile that seems to light up a room. You are in my thoughts and prayers. If prayers and well wishes have anything to do with it, you will beat this and become an even bigger inspiration to all you touch.

  11. Kirsten H. says:

    wow! Sitting in Nashville reading this… thank you for your example to teams and young men everywhere! I’ll be sharing this with my 7th grader.

  12. Jo Hoffman says:

    Hey Brandon, it’s Mamma Jo. I am so proud of you! I sure do miss your funny faces. Keep being you. Ca’t wait to see you next summer at Pine Cove. Love ya man!

  13. Todd Wagner says:

    Not surprised at all Buddy. You just lived another day faithfully like you have the hundreds in the past. Grateful thousands are and will be encouraged by your perseverance and joy.

    Confident of good things and grateful for your faithfulness to live joyfully out of the abundance of your confidence in Christ.

  14. Caoch Al & Janell Troyer says:

    Live in Kansas now but coached in LH area for 20 yrs. LH Perseverance: willingness to accept whatever comes, strength to face it head on, determination to stand firm, & insight to see the Lord’s hand in it all!

  15. Mrs. Lunt says:

    Brandon, you are one amazing kid! We miss your sweet face at Wallace! Always showing off your faith and smile…love it!!! Hugs, Mrs. Lunt (aka your favorite science teacher ever! Hehe!)

  16. cynthia guzman says:

    keep up the good work and you’re the best!

  17. LHJH Student says:

    LHJH admires you so much, we are so proud of you, brandon, and keep the good work. You’re the best!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Bobbie W says:

    I just flew last weekend, southwest out of love field, better safe thN sorry. I wear a bracelet that cannot come off, it always triggers metal detector, so I had to be padded down and go into special exray machine, who cares, this is their job, and I do not think the TSA enjoys their job, it’s a job! Everine, get over it, this is life, don’t fly if you can’t handle the TSA!!

  19. COREY HAYNES says:

    Pay it forward concept,has become 100Millon.com. All members gets the help needed. Celebs support needed it’s free. We are new started august 9 2010 and all ready fed 10 families and saved a family’s home. We get a look of shock when we tell people about 100millon,because it’s unbelievable. The power that each one of us have…then put it all together. NOW tell me what you can’t do? 100MILLON.COM is free and if you want to help someone read the blogs,to see if anyone has posted a need. If so then hit the donate PAYPAL button on their page. Just donate from $1 dollar to $5 dollars. Thats it! It’s not how much you give just how many! Anyone can get no waiting your turn,because all should be giving. But once a year a person can get helped. As 100MILLON grows it will evolve in a better way to help folks in need. Its like facebook and redcross in one,but it’s 100MILLON.COM

Comments are closed.

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE