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Fiction

“Ten and two with forty seconds on the clock. Pilgrims down by six. The Bulldogs apply double coverage to All-American wide receiver Tanner Scott. The ball is snapped. Jones fakes the hand off. Scott is off like a rocket. Jones brushes off a tackle and launches a Hail Mary. Scott has a read on it. Into the endzone they go. Look at the vertical on Scott, and he pulls it in! Oh, he’s hit hard, sent head-over-heels and lands in a twisted heap, folks. Scott is down. He’s not moving. Coach Wilson is heading to the field to check on his player. Everyone is still on their feet, but the jubilation they were experiencing has turned to concern. Yep, they’re waiving the ambulance on to the field. It’s not looking good right now for the Alabama signee out of Crestwood High…”


Seven years Later


[music]


Chip: “Welcome sports fans to the Sport’s Insider on 98.6 KDWZ. I’m your host, Chip Bossman, and today’s guest is none other than former Crestwood High football coach, Carter Wilson, who is here to discuss his new book ‘From Heals to Wheels: The Tanner Scott Story.’ Coach, can you tell us a little bit about Tanner?”


Carter: “Of course, Chip. Tanner was an extraordinary young man both on and off the field. He was not only an All-American wide receiver who set every receiving record in school history, he was a B average student who volunteered as a big brother. As you know, Crestwood is an underdeveloped, underfunded, crime-ridden neighborhood in our city. Young people who strive for success in that area come along only once in a lifetime – if that. But Tanner also cared about the future of the community and donated his time to help guide at least one young man away from a fate of incarceration, addiction, gang violence, or the homelessness that plagues the area.”


Chip: “But his life – his hopes and dreams – came crashing down when he took a hit in the endzone during the state championship, didn’t it.”


Carter: “It sure did, Chip. He had recently signed up to attend Alabama – full ride. He went into that game feeling he had the world in the palms of his hands. On that last play of the night, Jackson-Wheeler High knew the ball was going to Tanner, so they had him covered tight. The pass was high, but Tanner with his amazing vertical and sticky hands was able to pull it out of the sky no problem. One defender hit him low from his left side. The other hit high from his right. When they came down in a pile, the force of the impact severed Tanner’s spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.”


Chip: “Now, you saw him in the hospital afterwards, but it was almost another three years before you saw him again, wasn’t it?”


Carter: “Yes, I had gone into Lively’s Market there on Tucker after having met some friends for dinner in the neighborhood. I grabbed some beer and pork grinds for the game. I was heading to my car when a man dressed in torn and tattered clothes rolled up to me in a wheelchair with a ball cap pulled down over his brow and a hood up over the cap. He said, ‘Can you spare some change, coach?’ He pulled back the hood and raised his cap as I rustled a few crumpled-up bills out of my pocket. I was shocked to see it was Tanner. He looked like he had aged ten years since I last saw him. His eyes were dark and sunken. His cheekbones protruded. His lips were gray, swollen, and severely chapped. Even his black skin had a milkiness to it that told me he wasn’t healthy. Later on, he confided in me that he had started drinking more than eating and was hoping to fall asleep one night and not wake up.”


Chip: “He Really got that low? Was it just the loss of his legs or were there other factors that had him so depressed?”


Carter: “He was alone in the world. His family abandoned him. His friends were gone, with the exception of a couple drinking buddies he drowned his sorrows with at the bar near his house. He had nothing he enjoyed. He was a competitive young man who thrived in competitive atmospheres. When he lost his legs, he felt he couldn’t compete anymore. He just couldn’t adapt to a different lifestyle.”


Chip: That all changed when you introduced him to a mutual friend of ours, Elton Reynolds, who coaches para-athletics, primarily basketball and rugby, at the Athletics Center downtown.


Carter: “Elton’s a great guy, isn’t he? Yeah, Elton and I arranged for Tanner to meet us for beers with a couple guys from the rugby team. They got talking about their glory days playing football with him. Tanner’s spirits looked rejuvenated as they all talked. I think that was the first time he had experienced any sort of comradery in three years. Elton and I pitched the idea of him coming down to the Center to play and the guys encouraged him. He was hesitant at first, but he caved with a smile, agreeing to at least come down and tour the facility.”


Chip: “Obviously he was impressed by what he saw, but how was his first outing?”


Carter: “Boy, was it bad. He was out of shape and looked seriously overmatched despite being one of the biggest guys out there. He fatigued quickly, not having eaten anything for days, and some of the guys complained he reeked of alcohol.”


Chip: “He came in drunk?”


Carter: “No. There was just so much in his system his body was perspiring alcohol.”


Chip: [laugh] “And that’s when he officially met Butch Reed.”


Carter: [laugh] “Yeah, he wasn’t ready for Butch. The former strongman rammed him after scrimmage. He told him you either drink or you play. As Tanner was lying on the ground turning his chair upright, Butch threw him a card for AA. Told him he needed to quit one or the other. Tanner joined AA with Butch as his sponsor. Over time, the two became best friends. You could find them in the gym, pushing each other every day. They had a goal to make the Paralympic Team.”


Chip: “Whose idea was that, Tanner's or Butch?”


Carter: “Actually, it was suggested by Elton. Once Tanner and Butch agreed to putting in the work, Elton changed up their diets and workout routines."


Chip: “But things didn’t work out the way they planned, did it.”


Carter: “No, Bruce was cut. He was happy for Tanner though and continued to work with him, encouraging him, before Tanner reported to the practice facility in Texas."


Chip: “From there, Tanner went on to lead the team in points and a gold medal finish. What is Tanner up to these days?”


Carter: “These days you can find Tanner at the Athletics Center teaching boy’s wheelchair rugby and preparing for the next Paralympics. He’s happy. He has found purpose again. He’s competing and he’s giving back to the community. He has a lot of close friends. He has even been in a long-term relationship with para-archer Kimberly Rodriguez."


Chip: “And there you have it, folks. Truly an extraordinary person is Tanner Scott. To get all the details, check out ‘From Heels to Wheels: The Tanner Scott Story’ by Carter Wilson. Now in bookstores everywhere and available through your online retailer. Next up, we revisit the career of one-armed pitcher, major-leaguer Jim Abbott. Stay tuned to 98.6 FM.” 

January 29, 2024 22:09

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6 comments

John Rutherford
09:28 Feb 08, 2024

A chicken soup story, with a fresh method to tell it. Great stuff.

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A.B. Writer
23:49 Feb 06, 2024

This is great. Love how you included the disabled, and a big backstory for it. I mean, this is just great. One minor detail you might have overlooked: "Chip: He Really got that low?" Just looking out for you, man. Keep writing!

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Stella Aurelius
15:56 Feb 05, 2024

Great take on the prompt. I love the format !

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Trudy Jas
15:24 Jan 31, 2024

Thumbs up. Great redemption story

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Mary Bendickson
01:03 Jan 30, 2024

Interview clicked with me.

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Ty Warmbrodt
01:15 Jan 30, 2024

Thanks Mary. L didn't know how to go about the prompts this week. I should have saved the $5, but decided to try something different.

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