Van Wert head football coach Bob Priest knows all about adversity. His son Tyler was critically injured in a farming accident and spent nearly 90 days in a coma.
But looking at what his Cougar football team went through last week and still was able to produce a come-from-behind win over previously unbeaten Elida, made Priest say, “It was a life lesson for everyone.”
The Cougars came into this season with high hopes after a 5-5 record in 2009.
They won their opening game versus Bryan, but in week two were up against perennial power Kenton and got crushed 70-34.
“Kenton was actually gracious at the end. It could have been worse. We were shell-shocked,” said the fourth-year head coach.
Then four days after the embarrassing loss, the team received devastating news. A former Van Wert student, who had a brother and two cousins on the current team, died unexpectedly.
It rocked the Cougars squad.
“It was very emotional. It was tough to handle for the players. The coaches eventually left the room and the senior players rallied the team. It brought us all closer together,” Priest said.
The Elida game did not start out the way Priest wanted. The Cougars fumbled the football on their first two possessions and were down 13-0.
“I know with the way the week before went and the sudden death of the former student in our community that the game could go either way. But I also know my team and I knew they wouldn’t quit,” he said.
And they didn’t quit. Van Wert rallied time and time again in an offensive shootout. The Cougars would eventually beat the Bulldogs 41-37.
“I am really proud of them and the way they responded. There is your personal family and there is your football family. We all learned a life lesson there,” the still beaming head coach told me this week.
When the game had finally ended and Van Wert had pulled out the victory, Priest heard a “Hey, Dad,” from someone leaning on a fence by the field. It was his son Tyler.
The same Tyler who 26 months ago, at age 13, had his head and chest run over by the big wheel of a tractor. Tyler suffered from brain stem bleeding and his mother was told by doctors that “he was already gone.”
Tyler was in a coma for nearly 90 days but survived and persevered. Last winter, despite not being able to walk, Tyler wrestled for the Van Wert eighth grade team.
Then, on May 29, Tyler was involved in a serious car accident. He broke his left tibia and fibula, his right hip and his right humerus bone in two different places. Wow!
But last Friday night, less than four months later, there was Tyler who uses a motorized scooter to get around, hanging with the student body and standing the entire game to watch his dad coach, “the biggest win I have ever been a part of.”
“It made it even more special to hear Tyler and then to look over and see my son there,” said the proud papa.
Yep, Bob Priest sure knows adversity.
His football team sure knows adversity.
And a Van Wert program is feeling much better this week thanks to a football game on a field.
Isn’t that amazing?
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