Quinton, left, and senior Trevor Socarras (Courtesy of Trevor Socarras)

Brother’s keeper: Autistic sibling acts as inspiration for wide receiver Trevor Socarras

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Heads bowed. Eyes closed. Hands joined together.

When the Lehigh football team takes part in a pregame prayer, Trevor Socarras’ mind is focused on playing his heart out for his twin brother, Quinton, who can’t attend his games. As Socarras takes the field to thousands of fans at Goodman Stadium, he runs to the far end zone and gazes up to the sky for his brother as a reminder of why he plays the game.

Quinton Socarras was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. The presence of his brother fuels senior Trevor Socarras in every aspect of his life.

“Every decision I make revolves around him (Quinton),” Socarras said. “He affects everything including the major I’m in, playing football and even the girl I choose to ask out or eventually marry.”

After spending the first four years of his life in Franklin Township, New Jersey, Socarras and his family moved to Florida for a short time. Four years later, they returned to New Jersey for better education opportunities and because of the state’s reputation for assisting kids with autism.

In 2014, New Jersey had the highest reported rates of autism in the country according to NorthJersey.com, so a number of programs have been implemented to help people with it. Because his brother was diagnosed at such a young age, Socarras doesn’t recall life before the diagnosis. He said it’s always been normal for him growing up with an autistic brother, but it has affected the growth of his thought process as he got older.

Quinton, left, and senior Trevor Socarras (Courtesy of Trevor Socarras)

Before high school, Socarras never played a down of football, but he was far more mature mentally than his peers. He didn’t start playing football for leisure or to assimilate to the high school culture.

He realized he could use sports as an avenue to enhance his education and set him up to have a successful future. He believed his success on the football field would translate to gaining interest from some of the most prestigious schools in the country. The reason he invested so much time into developing his skill and craft as a wide receiver was to eventually assume full responsibility as his brother’s caretaker.

“I realized that there’s going to be a time in my life where my parents aren’t going to be around,” Socarras said. “As a freshman in high school, I was thinking about things a normal freshman wouldn’t think about until after college graduation, because I knew I was going to be the one to take care of him some day.”

Going into his senior year, Socarras listed two factors for his choice of school: education and proximity to home. Lehigh was the perfect match. The university was about an hour away from his hometown to go along with its renowned business program. To him, signing with Lehigh was a “no-brainer.”

Although Lehigh seemed like a fit, Socarras had a far from ideal start to his first semester. He only appeared in one game in his freshman season as a Mountain Hawk. In addition to that, he struggled to get along with his now-best friend, teammate and roommate, senior Evan Harvey. But despite the conflicts — most pertaining to cleanliness — Socarras kept things in perspective and didn’t panic.

He remembered who he was fighting for. Eventually the two fellow classmates began to understand each other a bit and it evolved into an unbreakable bond.

“We both grew up a lot in those first couple months,” Harvey said. “ I love the kid to death. (Socarras) was very driven since he got here with goals mapped out and future plans already in the works. Everything behind this focus is his twin brother. He works his butt off because he knows that his future is also his brother’s.”

It didn’t matter how swamped he was with work or how many plays he had to study for his next opponent — Socarras always set aside time for his brother. Any time he got a chance, Socarras would drive home to New Jersey and spend time with his brother.

“I think it’s a real credit to him that he’s able to handle this all in stride,” Lehigh offensive coordinator Scott Brisson said. “He has a lot more on his plate than the average 22-year-old, and he still has improved as a student every year.”

Football always came second to his brother. Socarras believed that in addition to his responsibility to care for his brother, he also needed to make an impact in the lives of others with autism and other disabilities. As a teenager, he became an Autism Awareness Ambassador for Autism New Jersey and helped raised $2,600 for the organization. He also was a volunteer for Special Olympics New Jersey, an organization that gives children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to compete in athletic events.

Socarras said he has a few ideas once he’s settled down financially after graduation including a fitness gym specialized for people with mental and physical disabilities.

“I want to provide them with a place where they won’t be judged,” Socarras said. “I want to create a better fitness life for them. My is goal is to be financially stable so I can give back 100 percent and take care of my brother.”

He is not an athlete first.

He is not a student first.

He is first and foremost Quinton Socarras’ brother.

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