Last August, Coosa football player Ben Masters was involved in a serious car wreck, which has left him without the use of his legs.
Despite the setbacks, Masters has worked his way back to return to school and to work.
He has also returned to the sidelines, supporting the Eagles football team.
Since his wreck, the atmosphere in the Coosa community, the team and coach Chad Perry has been different.
“A lot of people use the quote that ‘football is life’, but a setback like we experienced with Ben changes your perspective,” said Perry. “We forget sometimes because we get caught up in going out and trying to win.
“When something like that happens to your program a different reality sets in and you realize that there more important things than football,” added Perry.
“Ben is a special kid, and when the accident happened it was a reality check for a lot of people in this community.”
Despite all that’s happened, Masters can be found in the halls of a school every day.
And every Friday night when the Eagles take the field, Masters is there to support his friends and his team even though he can’t be on the field with them.
“I try and be with the team as much as possible and encourage them any way I can,” said Masters.
“It kills be me that I’m not out there, but it feels good to be apart of the team even though it’s not exactly how I want it to be.”
Masters’ appearance has inspired Perry, along with his friends and teammates as well.
“He brings another type of unity to this team like we’ve never had before,” said teammate Barkley Wimpee. “Ever since his accident, he has brought us together and made us care about each other.
“Bonding together for one teammate, whether he can play on the field or not, has changed so much for us,” added Wimpee. “It’s brought us together and helped us out there and we’ve come a long way.”
Perry says the changes that have come to Coosa have been influenced because of the type of kid Masters is.
“The moment we got the news was devastating,” said Perry. “But from that point forward, I’ve seen a team, a school and a community turn something like that into one of the biggest positives that I’ve ever seen take place in 19 years of coaching.
“It’s all because Ben’s such a special kid,” added Perry.
“He’s had to fight through struggles that we often take for granted, and watch that young man continue to strive to make himself a better person all the way around is just tremendous.”
At each game you can see fans wearing shirts with Masters number, 58, and the team has a sticker with his number on each helmet.
“We wear that 58 on our helmet as a constant reminder,” said Perry.
“These guys haven’t forgotten and Ben is their teammate and he always will be apart of our program.”
Having Masters there each Friday night inspires the Eagles, and the night can’t really begin until Masters arrives.
“Every time we play, we’re always looking for Ben,” said Wimpee. “We like to see that he’s still there and he’s still trying to be apart of our team. We always have a spot for him at pregame saved, and everybody’s waiting on Ben Masters to get there.”
Added Perry: “(Ben has) been a pivotal person in our program and he’s a great kid. He’s still got that smile on his face everyday that he shows up.
“And that’s got to be a struggle for him,” added Perry. “I know he has he own struggles, but I know the one place he feels at home is right down here with these guys.”
Perry said the Eagles have learned from watching Masters.
“You try and got out every day and teach unity, accountability and team chemistry, and a lot a times teams don’t realize what you’re trying to say as a coach,” said Perry. “Since that unfortunate event, these guys have come together and played at different level.
“These guys have upped their play and have really rallied together because they don’t want to disappoint Ben,” added Perry.
“I know a lot of times it gets into disappointing coaches, parents or fans, but their goal is to not disappoint Ben. Their goal is to go out and make sure their performing to a level that’s pleasing to him, because they know that’s what he’d be doing if he was still able to walk.”
With two weeks to play in the season, the Eagles (2-6, 2-3) find themselves with a chance to earn a playoff spot. Coosa will host Armuchee on Friday.
The chance to see his Eagles make the playoffs is thrilling for Masters, but he knows that it won’t be easy.
“It’s very exciting,” said Masters “This is what we’ve wanted and my class has never experienced the playoffs. It’s going to be close and we’re going to have to bring it.”