With a passion for football as great as Texas, one local man’s love for the Dallas Cowboys is even greater.

Thanks to his friends and family, Yogi Solis, added a signed football autographed by the legendary Bob Lilly to his prized collection of Dallas Cowboys memorabilia this past week. It came with an autographed photo and printed player biography as well.

“This is the best surprise,” Yogi Solis said. “Why did they pick me? How did this come about? Wow! This is awesome.”

The heartfelt surprise gift was made possible through a collaborative effort by another Sonora resident, Tonya Brown, who is also a football enthusiast and Lilly’s niece, Lisa Lux.

Brown said Solis is a special person who brightens any room with his smile. And, despite his own adversity, he inspires others to keep going and most of all love.

“Yogi is one of the most positive and upbeat persons that I have had the privilege of knowing,” Brown said. “We have been buddies since junior high school. We have had some good times together, laughed and cried. He’s always there for you wearing a smile, no matter what the situation.”

Brown said presenting Solis with the autographed football from Bob Lilly was “pretty special and memorable.”

“Yogi has been through a lot and we just wanted to give him something to show how special he is to many,” Brown said. “I’m proud to call Yogi my friend, even though I’m a diehard Denver Bronco fan.”

Holding his signed football and smiling from ear to ear, Solis said, “She’s [Tonya] always been a really good friend of mine and we always give each other a hard time.”

In addition to his love of football, it is friends like Brown and his family that inspires Solis who has had to overcome a variety of challenges throughout his life time.

Most recently, Solis, who is also a double amputee, was forced to leave his home following a flood this past September that damaged or destroyed more than 200 houses in Sonora.

Now living in temporary housing while waiting for his house to be rebuilt, Solis said nothing can keep him from watching his Cowboys.

“I lost all of my furniture, everything,” Solis said. “But I got my Cowboys stuff.”

Surrounded by blue and silver, including a miniature Cowboys theme Christmas tree, a Cowboys light in the window and a Cowboys banner stretched across the wall above his TV that he watches Cowboys games on, Solis said he feels lucky.

Solis, a 1982 graduate of Sonora High School and loyal Dallas Cowboys fan, grew up watching the NFL team. “It’s my team. Blue and white are my colors,” he said with certainty. And as for the game, he said “Football is like the bible.”

Solis said in addition to his continued support for his hometown Sonora Broncos, he has been following the Cowboys for more than 40 years. Throughout the years and players, Lilly has remained his all-time favorite.

Robert Lewis (Bob) Lilly, also called “Mr. Cowboy”, is a former American football defensive tackle. After playing college football at Texas Christian University, Lilly went on to play pro football for the Dallas Cowboys for 14 seasons.

Of course, he has been to a few Dallas Cowboys games and there is just no comparison to being there in person versus watching the game on TV, he said.

Describing it as “a big show.” He said it is “better than watching TV.” And as for watching the players from the stands, he said, “There is no one better than Bob Lilly. He was the man.”

Overwhelmed with emotion and thankfulness, Solis held up his signed football and photo of Lilly and said he wishes he could meet Bob Lilly in person or go see a Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl game in person.

Until then, he said he is content watching his Cowboys games on TV.

“I’ll be right here watching them play tonight,” Solis said.