Dez King

Dez King during the Desert Vista and Mesa High School football game at Mesa on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012.

It’s not just the lightning bolt earrings.

Anyone with a hole in his ear can do that.

Getting the same symbol shaved into his head takes a little more courage, but it still doesn’t come close to telling how much Dez King loves his Thunder.

For that only a lucky few — those Desert Vista football players who start each home football game in the inflatable tunnel — get to see King in his full glory.

“Dez is hooting and hollering and getting us fired up,” senior lineman Cole Preston said. “Inside that tunnel he is going crazy and he always leads us out on the field.”

While each Friday night home game is a chance for King, 25, to show off his status as the Thunder’s top fan, it is the practice week, when it is 110 degrees and many of the players are looking for reprieve of any kind, King proves just how much he is ingrained into the program.

King is there making sure the athletes have what they need and it isn’t just the water he brings them during breaks or in between plays.

“You can be frustrated with something or just tired of dealing with the heat and you look over and Dez is smiling,” senior safety Nick Farina said. “It can fix your attitude just like that.”

King’s connection with the program, and the school as a whole, goes far beyond fandom. He has mild cerebral palsy and it kept him from playing sports so King lives vicariously through those who do.

“I love (former Thunder all-state defensive end) Devon Kennard and wish I could be like him,” King said. “(Former player and current coach) Bryant St. Cyr is the brother I never had. I love being around these guys.”

The main guy is Desert Vista head coach Dan Hinds, who has gone out of his way to make King feel like he is every bit a part of the team as anyone else.

King has a Thunder jersey with his name emblazoned on the back and has a state championship ring that he flashes any chance he gets.

Hinds knows firsthand the importance of structure and a sense of belonging for King as his own 6-year-old son, Luke, has cerebral palsy as well.

“My heart goes out to anyone like Dez or Luke who has special needs,” Hinds said. “Dez has a special place in my life and within our program.”

And King, who works at the Fry’s on Chandler Boulevard, and lives with his mother, Coralea Gosnell, appreciates all that Hinds has done over the years after being introduced when King was still in school at DV.

“It means a lot because Coach Hinds has done a lot for me,” King said. “Without him no one would know who Dez King is. I wouldn’t have this jersey with ‘King’ on it. Being part of this team is everything to me. I eat, sleep and live for football.”

There is no doubt about that each Friday night when he is walking up and down the sidelines keeping it light, making sure players are ready and well hydrated.

He high fives, fist bumps and can’t control his emotion when the Thunder do something good.

Or bad for that matter.

“I can’t help it,” he said. “I want us to win every time. Every play I’m on that sideline I want to make a difference if I can.”

No worries there.

“Dez does so much for us,” senior Kaleb Germinaro said. “He has a great sense of humor and he is always upbeat. You’ll be on the sideline tired, or upset, and he comes by and picks you up. We are doing something he would give anything to be able to it. It kind of puts things into perspective.

“We wouldn’t be Desert Vista without Dez King.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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