Number 12

February 28, 2009


It seemed that every elementary school year I ever had was one I couldn’t wait to arrive. Each one from kindergarten through the sixth grade brought with it little more responsibility and new opportunity. The fourth grade was one I remember had a unique excitement about it–a special anticipation.

Being old enough to attend a fourth grade meant I was also old enough to play Little League football. Growing up in my home this was something I was really excited for. My dad played high school football and always felt like he may have been good enough to play college ball. This meant a lot of talk and instruction about football from the time I was very young. He was never out of control and didn’t ever exert an inordinate amount of pressure but his excitement seem to breed a little more excitement in me.

So my mom signed me up, I got my gear, my helmet, my jersey and I was off to my first practice. It was great! I loved every minute of it, and couldn’t wait to go back.

Every day after school I had football practice. Now, some kids go hoping for the coach to tell them what positions they’ll be playing and others go with their dream position set in their mind. I was most assuredly the latter.

My favorite team in the whole world was the Dallas Cowboys, and my favorite player on the Dallas Cowboys was Roger Staubach. So on the first day I showed up for practice I knew I wanted to be number 12 and I knew I wanted to be quarterback.

This worked out great. I had always been able to memorize things well which made it easy for me to memorize the plays. In the first year of Little League football pretty much all the plays are running plays. In the fourth grade you rarely have anyone well developed enough to accurately throw or accurately catch the football. This meant that my job as quarterback was to remember who to give the football off to and which “hole” they were going through.

It was perfect. We had some good running backs and I always remembered exactly where to put the ball. This led to a season filled with wins and high expectations for the season to come.

It seemed like forever but eventually it was football time again. I don’t know if it was ingrained in me genetically but every time you taste the crispness in the air and smell the leaves beginning to change my body craves football. So it was with great anticipation that my teammates and I showed up to that first practice of our sophomore Little League season in the fifth grade.

There were a lot of great things that happened on that first day. First, you could tell that everyone had grown. That meant we were going to be stronger, faster and just all around better. Also, the coach pulled out the playbook and there were pass plays all over the place.
This was wonderful. Now our strong ground attack would be complemented with an air assault as well. I went home after practice and began to memorize the plays for the upcoming season. The following day at practice we learned that there was going to be one problem with the new approach. I couldn’t throw the ball.

Try as I might I could not get the ball into the receiver’s hands. Over and over I worked on getting the ball from my hand to the receiver. Over and over balls kept ending up too far ahead, too far behind, too high above or too far below their targets.

I went to the coach and worked to convince him that I could change this. I told him that I would practice as hard as I could and learn how to throw a good ball. The coach gave me my chance and determined to succeed I went to my dad.

In the backyard, he set up a litany of drills for me to work through to improve my ability to throw the ball. There was a tire swing, a target drawn on the fence, and even time set aside to throw the ball to my brother.

After nearly two weeks it became painfully evident that no matter what I did I was not going to be able to throw a straight ball. The coach pulled me aside to let me know that being a quarterback just wasn’t in the cards for me. With all his powers of persuasion he worked to convince me that quarterback wasn’t the only position of importance, and that there were many other places I could contribute to my team. But it fell on deaf ears. All my life I had dreamed of proudly wearing number 12 and now it looked like those dreams were dashed.

A few days later my dad asked me why I like to play football. I of course told him that about all the accolades and glory that the quarterback received, but I also told him how much I loved the drills that allowed me to hit somebody. My dad told me that maybe I should concentrate on that part and move on from the glory.

My coach, seeing the similar thing in practice the following week had me work out at nose guard. This required a whole new set of skills. I wasn’t the biggest guy on the team and not the natural choice to play this position. But, my coach felt that I could combine my love of hitting and my brains to be an effective defensive lineman.

He was right. I used everything I had learned to be an effective quarterback against the quarterbacks I lined up against. I would watch their feet, and knowing what it meant when I put my feet in that position, would be able to detect which direction the quarterback was going to go. I had a season filled with sacks, lining up on the defensive line in my number 12 jersey.

I thought I could only be happy wearing number 12 lining up behind the center. But circumstances didn’t allow that and I had to find a way to maximize my abilities. No matter how bothered, frustrated or annoyed I was at the fact that I couldn’t throw the ball didn’t change that fact.

 One week after my diving accident.

One week after my diving accident.

The importance of this lesson was only reinforced when I broke my neck. As a quadriplegic, circumstances didn’t allow me to do many of the things I loved to do prior to my injury. There  were countless physical activities that although previously a regular part of my life could now no longer be accomplished. Not only things I enjoyed recreationally, like skiing, football, and running, but normal every day things as well, like dressing, showering and getting up out of bed.

Just like my inability to throw the ball, no amount of frustration or anger was going to change my plight. I had to decide to maximize my abilities; to play the game of life with the same vigor as a quadriplegic as I did an able-bodied person. I couldn’t just quit because I didn’t have the “skills” to play the “position” I was used to–the cost of that decision would have been unthinkable. I had to learn to find how I could contribute to the “game” with my different skill set.

We have to approach our lives in the same way. They are many goals we want to accomplish and things we want to do. Most of them can be accomplished with hard work, discipline and dedication. However, there are some that, regardless of how hard we work, cannot be achieved . When we encounter these situations we have to be willing to make adjustments; we have to be willing to change.

In today’s economy we see this everywhere. Hopes, dreams, and aspirations that just six months ago were well on their way to being realized now have been dashed. Much like the change between my first and second season of Little League football things are different and no matter how much we wish they weren’t doesn’t change how much they are.

But we can still find a way to success, we just have to be willing to look at new ways we can contribute; at different “positions” on the team. We have to look at how we can maximize our talents to net the greatest results–even if that maximization means changing our goals and dreams to ones that can be greater served by our abilities and situation.

From that first day in my fifth-grade year that I made the change to the day in July of 1986 that I was no longer able to play football, I played on the line and loved every minute of it. Had I not been willing to look at things differently my football career would have been even shorter than it was and memories that I hold onto with such fondness never would have happened. We have to be flexible. Sometimes we have to be willing to make changes in our dreams to suit our strength and circumstance.

Doing so will lead to winning seasons and ultimately, happy days.


Keep On Keepin’ On

February 21, 2009

In these times of struggle and frustration, I think we will all fare better if we just keep trying.  Here’s how I share that message with the groups I speak for.




February 9, 2009


Once I returned back home following my diving accident one of the matters of business most important to me was going back to school. I broke my neck in July of 1986. But, due to a three-month stay in the hospital I didn’t return home until mid-October. This meant that the first semester of my sophomore year in high school career was nearly half over.

Graduating with my class was very important to me. I had grown up in Boise my whole life and had been with most of these kids since kindergarten. I did not want my hospital stay to keep me from finishing what I started with my friends. In order to make that happen, I had to get back to school ASAP.

I was able to convince my doctors to allow me to go back to two periods of class each day. In order to make this happen this meant my good mother would have to get me ready, drive me to school, wait for my first hour of school to end, return me home to take a nap so I would have the strength to do my therapy, drive me to therapy, wait for me to finish that therapy, return me to school for my second hour of class and finally take me home once class was over. There are some people in our lives whom we can never repay–in my life one of those people is my mother.

With transportation worked out and the blessing of the administration given I proceeded to pick the two classes I would attend. I picked choir and a religion class (it is clear that although graduation was important to me, like most teenagers my social needs trumped my educational needs). Each class allowed me to fill a requirement and get closer to graduation–all without having to dissect a frog or use a slide rule.

As I continue to work in therapy my body continued to get stronger. The strength allowed me to pick up even more classes at the semester break. This presented a new problem. My choir and religion class didn’t require a lot of books. However, now my new schedule necessitated all kinds of textbooks.

Since I couldn’t use a locker I had to figure out another option. I located a local shop that made bags (for any former Boisean it was called “Burts Bags”) and asked them to make me a giant backpack that would hang off the back of my wheelchair. They did, and it was enormous. But it did its job and I had a portable locker.

The problem was, I couldn’t get the books out of my backpack. This meant I required help in each of my classes. Being a 15-year-old boy, I figured that if I needed to set by somebody who could help me, it might as well be a girl somebody. I also reasoned that if it had to be a girl somebody, it might as well be a cute “girl somebody.” So, on one specific winter day during my sophomore year I entered one of my classes and true to form sat next to the cutest “girl somebody” I could find. Her name was Nicole.

Nicole and I had been friends for some time and as usual, on this day, she was willing to help me get my books out of my backpack.

In the middle of class my leg began to have a muscle spasm. Now this can look like any number of different things. It can be mild, where my foot will begin to tap on my foot rest as if I’m keeping time to music that only I can hear. It can be fairly violent where my leg shoots out, straight in front of me, and wildly shakes about, (this happened to me one time in the waiting room of a restaurant and I tripped and 85-year-old man–but that’s a different story altogether) or, it can look like anything in between.

On this day in the middle of class my muscle spasm was of the mild variety. As a result of reflex and completely out of my control, my foot began to tap on my foot rest. This is something that happens with some regularity. Without thinking much of it, I continued to try and look as though I was paying attention to the teacher.

Nicole looked down and saw my foot moving on my foot rest. When she did, her eyes got as big as softballs, she jumped out of her seat, threw her arms in the air and screamed, “He’s healed!”

The teacher and the rest of the class looked back to see my leg moving and almost in unison screamed, “He’s healed!” It was at this point when madness erupted. It seemed as though everyone in the class was up on their feet, doing the dance of healing, smiling and laughing and hugging each other. I couldn’t believe it. Someone had been healed! Not realizing that they were talking about me I joined in the festivities myself–jealous of whoever had been healed.

Then, it dawned on me that I was the person they were talking about. Quietly, I pulled Nicole aside and told her that I wasn’t healed and that what she was seeing was nothing more than a spasm or a reflex.

Her face began to turn the deep shade of red. Embarrassed, she told the class that I wasn’t healed. It felt like they all turned around together and looked at me in complete disappointment as if to say, “Thanks a lot. We were singing, dancing and having a good time for nothing.”

I remember thinking, “I’m sorry. Next time, give me a little notice and I’ll try to be healed.”

Even though everyone was disappointed a miracle hadn’t occurred, it wasn’t long until we were all smiling and laughing about what happened. I remember still smiling and laughing as I drove home from school that day. But, when I pulled into my driveway a curious thing happened. I began to think about what might have come to be if I had believed the same way Nicole did.

As one might imagine, the kids in my class hoped, wished and even prayed that I would be healed. From the day my accident happened, my friends believed that I could be healed. On that day, Nicole was tired of just believing and ready to act. At the littlest evidence she was ready to act. When she saw my foot move the strength of her belief caused her to jump up and shout, “He’s healed.” If on that day I believed with the same passion, who’s to say she wouldn’t have been right.

Amazing things happen when we believe. But miracles come to fruition when we then act on those beliefs. I have seen and been a part of things others believe to be impossible because I have acted on my beliefs. Believing gives us strength. When we act on our beliefs we gain power–the power to enable the miraculous to come to pass. It is important that we believe. But, we truly begin to achieve when, like Nicole did that day, we act on our beliefs.

I know that as I continue to act on my belief that I will walk someday, that the day will come when I will stand from my chair, hold it over my head, throw it as far as I can, and run until I drop. With the same surety that I know that, I know that the difficulties and struggles that lay in wait in your lives will fall when you believe and act.

So let’s believe. Let’s believe with our hearts and souls. Let’s believe with every ounce of who we are. But then, let’s do a little more. Acting on our beliefs allows miracles to happen.


True Inspiration

February 3, 2009


Throughout the course of my life I have seen, experienced, and been a part of many things that have motivated me to do the undoable and inspired me to believe the unbelievable. I have found great power and direction in the common and the uncommon alike. My journey has been a truly wild ride and has given me some unique perspectives.

However, I can say without equivocation that on Tuesday, the 27th of January I had the most inspiring and motivating moment of my life. At 4:50 in the morning I watched my first child, my son Coleman, come into this world.

Never in my life have I seen anything more pure and good and right. Never have I been a part of something more spiritually powerful. Never, have I believed more strongly that anything can happen.

In the days since his birth I have relished the quiet moments when I hold him in my arms and look him in the eye. In those moments I have felt inspiration and motivation without equal. I have felt inspired to become better that I might set a proper example for him. I have felt motivated to never quit so that through me he might know the power of perseverance.

There are those who say that everything good and worth fighting for is no longer a part of this world. I’m here to tell you that at 4:50 AM on Tuesday, January 27 Coleman Jason Hall proved them wrong.

My boy inspires me.


For more information on the birth of Coleman Jason Hall check my blog