Davis Reyes-Ruiz may not have played football with Keannu Linnell.
But the promising quarterback, a transfer student from Stockton, had a chance on Saturday to play the role of the 17-year-old Lathrop High student who has been battling germ cell neoplasm, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
It was all part of Linnell’s Make-A-Wish Foundation dream of once again playing football with his Spartan teammates.
“It’s unprecedented on what we’re trying to do,” said Michele Sanders, Vice President of Communications and Outreach for Make-A-Wish of Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada.
She referred to simulating a high school football game at Bennie Gatto Field at Paul Wiggins Stadium otherwise known as the home of the Spartans.
“It’s taken months of planning and a cast of thousands,” Sanders added.
Those numbers were trimmed down some when the noon time filming schedule by emergeXR Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, was temporarily halted because of rain.
The virtual reality equipment — included was the Mantis remote roving camera dolly, the Insta360, and the helmet cam worn by Reyes-Ruiz — wasn’t made to handle the wet conditions, Sanders said.
She was aware of only one other Make-A-Wish request involving virtual reality technology.
“There was a little boy who wanted to go to Mars,” Sanders recalled.
Filming under the direction of David Walsh of emergeXR did resume during the late afternoon.
His company comes with the promise of taking which was once a dream and turning that into a reality via visual and augmented reality.
The sidelines had some familiar faces including Spartans coach Joe Pirillo and many of Keannu Linnell’s football teammates from his freshman and sophomore year.
“This is for him,” said defensive lineman Adrian Corona.
Principal Greg Leland noted that Linnell had just finished his sophomore season of football when be became ill.
“He didn’t get a chance to play varsity even though he was good enough to get pulled up,” Leland said.
This would be his chance.
On the other sideline was Weston Ranch, the Spartans’ former Interstate 5 rivals. At least in uniform.
“It feels strange wearing a different jersey other than the Spartans,” said LHS sophomore Julian Chavez, who knew Linnell from back in their days with the Lathrop Lions youth football program.
These Weston Ranch Cougars were none other than the recent junior varsity players from LHS. The opposition uniforms were made possible by Sal Reyes, who is no stranger to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
He quickly jumped at the opportunity to help out at LHS upon getting word from Leland and Vice Principal / Athletic Director Chuck Selna.
One of his daughters is a cancer survivor and was able to go to Disney World for her Make-A-Wish Foundation request.
Keannu Linnell has also made a remarkable recovery. He’s maintained a 4.0 grade point average and is looking forward to graduating in May.
Linnell continues to recover physically while dealing with a paralysis issue.
He was not in attendance at the virtual reality filming but is scheduled to be at his Wish Revealed showing — or the airing of the virtual reality production — on Friday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
“We want to fill the stadium that day to share with Keannu and his Wish Revealed,” Sanders said.