This heartwarming story was passed along to us from our Columbia affiliate 560 The Team. This was written by a 16 year-old named Matthew Hastings. With permission, we are sharing it here. Thanks to Matthew for reminding us that the most important lessons in sports usually don’t have a thing to do with the final score.
Becoming a Member of a Football Team
By: Matthew Hastings
At age fourteen, in 2010, I became a member of the Newberry College Football Team. Coach Knight asked me to join the team. I was born with Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is the result of a brain injury at birth which causes my body to receive incorrect messages from my brain and my muscles don’t work correctly. I have had multiple surgeries to correct my crooked legs. In March, 2010, I had a surgery that the doctor told me and my mom that I would walk out of the rehabilitation hospital. I did not walk out.
This surgery, in 2010, took eight hours. I was in the hospital for ten days, recovery at home for six weeks, then Rehab for two more weeks. The doctor performed a derotational osteotomy on my legs. This is a surgery where the doctor broke the femur bone in both my upper legs and set my legs straight with metal rods. He also repositioned both my knees to put them in the correct position. The recovery was long and painful. I had a cast on my legs from the top of my thighs to my toes. The cast created ulcers on my heels that were big, black, very deep and painful. The ulcers created complications with my rehab, and recovery took much longer than expected.
I needed help with everything; getting out of bed, bathing, and going to the bathroom. My mom called a company that sends people out to help. That’s how I met Derrell. The company sent him to our house to help my mom and me with my recovery. Derrell came in the mornings. He helped me with my exercises, fixed my breakfast, and gave me my bath. Derrell played the Wii with me and he became my best buddy and still is!
Derrell played defensive end for the Newberry College Football Team, The Wolves. He was #9. I didn’t know that Newberry College existed before I met Derrell. He talked to his coach about me, and asked my mom’s permission to take me to meet Coach Knight and the team. When I got there, they gave me an autographed, poster schedule, and the coach told me that I could get into all of the football games free. Next, they took me on a tour of Newberry College, and to the locker room where they gave me a #7 jersey, just like the players wear on game day. I went to some of the summer practices, all of the home and away games.
During some of the practices, I started giving out water bottles to the team because they were sweaty and working so hard. Soon after that, I became the official ‘waterboy’ for the football team.
The week before the last game, I was invited to participate in the coin toss event with Derrell and three other players. At this last game, as they announced the players who would walk out for the coin toss, they announced me as, “honorary team captain.” I was surprised to hear my name announced. Everyone, including Derrell, thought I would be in my wheelchair for the coin toss. But they were surprised to see me in my walker, and I walked to center field with them for the coin toss. Newberry won the toss and the referee gave me the winning coin.
“Every cloud has a silver lining.” It is possible to get something positive out of a situation no matter how unpleasant, difficult, or even painful it might be. The surgery that was a bad experience with many complications, turned into a very positive experience for me. As a result, I met Derrell and became a member of the Newberry College Football Team. This was important to me because I looked forward to the practices and the games, I made lots of friends, and I am a member of the team. My job as waterboy motivates me and helps me to be responsible. Coach Knight and the team members tell me that I am a motivator for them, and that I inspire them because I accomplished walking across the field, and overcame many obstacles. But, the team inspired me to work hard in my therapy to get back on my feet. My motto, “Never give up.”