NORMAN — When pop singer Katy Perry's song “Roar” was released in August, it quickly became the unofficial anthem of Norman High School.
With its references to “the eye of the tiger,” the song was made to order for a school with a tiger mascot.
So it was a no-brainer that the school would enter a video music contest for high schools sponsored by Perry and based on the song. Another no-brainer? To feature senior Jake Pyle, 17, who inspires his classmates with his ever-ready smile and positive attitude, despite living with a chronic illness.
Diagnosed at the age of 2 with Type II spinal muscular atrophy, Pyle has spent most of his life in a wheelchair. That doesn't dampen his spirit or his will to live, which has astounded doctors who predicted he wouldn't live past the age of 5.
When he did, doctors then said 7, then 8, then 9, then 11. After that, they stopped putting an end date on his life.
“Jake defines the meaning of ‘Roar,'” said classmate Peyton Powers, who has known Pyle four years.
Pyle had never heard the song before Powers and other classmates played it for him.
“When I heard it, I said, ‘that's so true,'” Pyle said. Paraphrasing one of the song's lines that apply to him, Pyle said, “I've been knocked down, but I got up — that's me. I'm a fighter.”
The theme of the “Roar with Katy Perry Contest” is “Eye of the Tiger,” said Powers.
“There's no better embodiment of that than Jake, so our video is from his perspective. He's an inspiration for every student and especially a student living with a chronic illness.”
Student congress adviser Dawn Brockman said the idea of featuring Pyle in the music video “just took on a life of its own. It began as an idea of the student congress, but everybody and every organization jumped on board. It truly became a collaborative effort. The whole school got involved.”
The school that wins the contest gets a visit from Perry, who will perform a concert just for the student body.
Norman High School students hope Perry will take a personal interest in Pyle, their star performer, who is filmed whizzing down the school hallway surrounded by hundreds of cheering students.
He's also seen smiling from his wheelchair in the tuba section of the band as it spells out “Roar” on the football field.
Pyle wants “more than anything” to drive. But to do so, he must have a customized van, estimated to cost about $50,000.
“I love cars, always have. I want to drive like any other teenager. It's absolutely a freedom everyone deserves,” Pyle said.
Fellow senior Hannah Connery said students hope Perry will help sponsor a fund drive for Pyle so he can get his van.
“It's become more about that. Win or lose (the contest), we're still going to work toward getting him a van,” Connery said.
The contest winner will be announced Oct. 18 on ABC's “Good Morning America.”
The winning school will receive a visit from Perry on her birthday, which is Oct. 25. The visit will be broadcast live on “Good Morning America.”
To fund the two-minute video produced by students, T-shirts were sold. Students were told if they bought a T-shirt they could be in the video.
“We sold out the first day. I had to reorder, and those sold out within 24 hours. We sold 560 T-shirts in a week,” Brockman said.
Regardless of how the contest comes out, student Reed Shafer-Ray said Pyle has inspired the school to become “a more tight-knit and supportive community.”
Pyle said the contest got him “out of my bubble. It's hard for me to break out and talk to other students. Or was, it's not anymore.”
To view the video, search #normanroar on Twitter.