“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”
I grew up involved in any sport could get my hands on. I was a three sport athlete throughout High School, which lead to playing Division II football at Winona State University. I was fortunate to play as a true Freshman, which meant the summer months in between my freshman and sophomore year of college brought about even more training. My drive to get even better for next year and become the starting tight end for the Warriors was a obtainable goal. My identity at the this time was rooted in my athletic career. Nothing else mattered besides my pursuit of being the best athlete I could be. July 10, 2004, would be a day that all those dreams vanished as a casual boating adventure with my best friends on the Mississippi River turned into a life altering accident. In the matter of a split second, I went from a college football player to a paralyzed 19 year old kid. My life as I knew it was over.
After eighty-nine days in the hospital, I had to figure out what life would be like in a wheelchair. I had to relearn how to use an eating utensil, how to get dressed, and how to maneuver around in my wheelchair. I had all these questions swirling around (similar to anyone at that age), but felt the questions were distant because of the circumstances. Would I go back to college, find a passion to pursue, or find a woman that would love me despite the physical disability I now possessed, become a father, find purpose in life using a wheelchair, or simply figure out how to get through the next day? Little did I know that through God’s grace, those questions slowly found answers. My faith in God became my foundation. My then girlfriend, April would become my wife in 2007. I graduated from college. April and I have three beautiful children (Braxton, Brayden, and Brynley). I found an adaptive sport that helped me become independent, confident and fuel my competitive fire, which has made my rugby career an amazing ride. I finished my graduate studies in 2015, obtaining a Masters in Professional Counseling. Yet something was still missing…
Identity is something that I have wrestled with throughout my entire life, but as I grow in my faith I realize that the pursuit of medals isn’t the ultimate goal. My identity isn’t in just being an athlete. It has taken me a long time to figure out that I don’t need a sport to define who I am or what I am worth. It all sounds so simple. What is hard to write in the confines of a few sentences is the fact that some days just plain suck. There are days where you don’t feel like you’ll finish college, or find a passion, or have energy to be an elite athlete, or be a good husband or father. I’ve fallen short so many times, made stupid mistakes, and have had doors slammed in my face that I truly thought were open. I say all these things not to get a cyber pat on the back, but to hopefully show people that life is full of choices. Since that life changing day back in 2004, I never could have imagined the path God has put me on. It is crazy to think of how one day, heck, one second can change so much. Through my faith, family, education, athletic career, and experiences, I have found my passion and purpose in helping others find theirs. We get a choice to get up. A choice to move on. A choice to stop and reflect. A choice to learn from mistakes. A choice to be a better person than we were the day before. A choice to live by faith. Even when days seem hard, or I make mistakes, or I can’t comprehend the path, or I mess up, I choose to live this life with passion for His purpose.