Achondroplasia is a big word with a little meaning. It is a genetic disorder that affects one in every 25,000, a condition caused by change in the DNA of a person's growth factor. It means dwarfism.
It means little people.
Damon Simmons is 16 and loves sports more than life, a kid who can't get enough of the Celtics and Mariners and Seahawks and Rampage Jackson and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He wants to become a broadcaster. He dreams big.
All 48 inches of him.
"I like how I am," Damon said. "There was a time when I would ask why I was born this way, a time I hated it. But not anymore. It was harder when I was younger, the staring. I didn't like it much then. I'm used to it now. It doesn't bother me anymore. I like the attention."
For six seasons, TLC offered an extensive TV documentary of little people, following the daily lives of the Roloff family in Oregon. The show helped broaden the scope of what others perceive little people to be, a reality setting used to educate the masses. It helped little people become more normalized throughout society.
Damon knows the Roloffs and what their TV run meant to opening eyes and altering perceptions. He is about to enter his junior year at Foothill High School, a water boy for the football team and scorekeeper for the baseball team and athlete itching to compete just as hard as those he watches and helps at school.
His opportunity comes the first week of July, when Damon will compete in flag football and basketball at the Dwarf Athletic Association of America National Games in Anaheim, Calif. He is one of more than 250 athletes attending and will do so with his grandmother, Sandra Laymance.
His guardian. His friend. His everything.
She has been there for Damon since that ultrasound, when doctors said the son her daughter was carrying would be a dwarf.
"At first, you grieve for the loss of an average child," Laymance said. "But then by the time he was born, we were done with that part. We have always been strong in faith, that this is what God had planned all along."
It has been a sometimes traumatic and yet also fulfilling journey, Grandma retiring to Southern Nevada from Washington state five years ago and Damon joining her shortly after for a better and much healthier existence. Sandra has been the one constant in his life.
They reside in a two-bedroom apartment at her senior citizen complex in Henderson, where Damon is allowed to live because he is categorized as disabled. Whoever thinks that hasn't seen the kid take jump shots.
Damon lives in a world not built for him but always has been determined to navigate through it just the same. Ignorance by others can sting more than any physical ailment. Some never will understand.
"I hurt for him because the fear of the unknown has made some kids just not allow themselves to know him or be close to him," said Sandra, 63. "You still get a lot of people who are just standoffish. But he has very high self-esteem. He is very respectful of others."
The Painted Turtle is a group of medical specialty camps in California during the summer and a branch of the Hole in the Wall Gang camps founded by actor Paul Newman in the late 1980s. One specifically is designed for little people, and in August it will be the final one Damon attends. He will be too old next year.
There are activities such as boating and fishing and music. There are dances each evening. It is a way to socialize with other little people, much like Damon does with a local chapter called the Tumbleweeds.
But more than anything else, he wants to live a normal life. Wants to drive one day. Live by himself. Perhaps attend college.
He definitely wants to attend a UFC event with his grandma. He wants to see Rampage fight on something more than a computer screen.
Above all, he wants to prove big dreams can come true for the littlest of people.
"It can be embarrassing at times, not being able to reach things others can," Damon said. "But I do what I have to do. I tell people all the time that I'm not different, just smaller."
In stature, yes.
In heart, not a chance.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday on "Monsters of the Midday," Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.