Ryan Jeffress, a founding member of the Tidewater Piranhas Power Soccer Club, died in his sleep at his home in Nacogdoches, Texas on the morning of 27 Nov 2013 of complications from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He is survived by his parents, Theresa Jeffress of Nacogdoches, Texas, and father Michael and his wife Priscilla Jeffress of Thibodaux, La.; two sisters, Britnie Jeffress of Lufkin, Texas, and Meleah Jeffress of Nacogdoches, Texas; grandparents, William and Gwen Wright of Heber Springs, Ark., and William and Brenda Jeffress of Bonanza, Ark.; a nephew, a niece, and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
His father, Michael, wrote, “He was tired of fighting MD and is now at rest. He knew the end was near and he was at peace with it. Per his wishes there will not be a viewing, but we will have a service to celebrate his life, sharing pictures and stories and favorite memories, on Saturday, December 14, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. at North Street Church of Christ in Nacogdoches, TX. All are invited. Please add your favorite pictures and stories on Facebook and tag Ryan in them and I will collect and use what I can in the service.”
Ryan was born on 23 April 1993 in Searcy, Arkansas and grew up there until moving to Virginia a few years later. In 2005, he participated in an introductory clinic about power soccer in Williamsburg, Virginia, given by Jerry Frick. He immediately fell in love with the sport and along with 4 others from the Tidewater area of Virginia, formed the Piranhas Power Soccer Club. He wore #22 for the team and, in 2007, helped the team win second place in their first National Division 2 Championships.
When asked about what he thought or felt the first time he learned that the sport of power soccer exists, he answered, “I thought it would be really cool because I’ve never been able to play sports, and it’s something I get to do over the weekend—not watch TV all day.”
Quiet and unassuming, he was nonetheless a fearsome competitor on the field. His father wrote that Ryan, “…was the most humble person I have ever known. He always thought of others more than himself. I never heard him complain about his condition or the pain he experienced from it. He was a model of keeping a good attitude amidst adversity. He always had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh and make others laugh too.”
Ryan served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Texas and Virginia and helped raise thousands of dollars to fund research and send kids to MDA Summer Camp, which he dearly loved. In 2003 he and his family were featured on the National Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon show.
In 2009, Ryan and his family moved back to Texas where he helped form the Nicholls State University Beta Sigma Iota (BSI) Blazin’ Cajuns power soccer team in Thibodaux, LA.
In 2011 he graduated from Nacogdoches High School as a National Honors Society member and enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University to study broadcast journalism – he was a living encyclopedia of sports trivia. Ryan's faith was also important to him and he was an active leader in his youth groups at church.
Additionally, he was an avid Dallas Cowboys fan and his father recalled, “Ryan loved sports. He served as the team manager for various ball teams at his schools. When he appeared on stage with a local radio DJ host to introduce the Newsboys at a fundraising concert in 2003, the DJ asked him, ‘If we raise a lot of money that funds the research to find the cure and you can walk again, what do you want to do when you grow up?’ Without hesitation, Ryan said, ‘To play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys!’"
Ryan’s thoughts about power soccer include: “My involvement with power soccer has brought me closer to my friends and family by allowing them to watch me play and see me really happy, instead of just watching them play their sports.”
Talking about scoring a goal at the National Championships, “I had a moment that regular athletes have. I have become a more capable person by playing and feeling normal doing it… I felt normal because I was able to do something people who walk can do that I never thought I would do.”
“[Power soccer] helped me feel motivated to try new things I would not have done before.”
"I like playing with all my teammates and having fun with the competition.”
“Sometimes I wish I was able to walk, but then I realized I wouldn’t be able to play power soccer and meet all these awesome friends and teammates.”
We will miss #22 and his wonderful friendship, sportsmanship, and camaraderie.
A memorial scholarship fund in Ryan's honor is being established through the Office of Disability Services at Nicholls State University. To make a tax-deductible donation to this fund, send your gift payable to "Join My World," P.O. Box 2094, Thibodaux, La., 70310, earmarked: "Ryan Jeffress Memorial Scholarship Fund.”