"The hardest thing is knowing where I was before, and knowing how I worked to get as strong, as fast as I was, and losing it all in a matter of seconds."
A matter of seconds changed Sterling Thomas' life forever. It came when the freshman was making a tackle for Lindenwood University.
"I can only remember what led up to the hit," Thomas said. "And the next thing I remember I'm in an ambulance on my way to the hospital."
Thomas' mother, Sharon, remembers it like it was yesterday.
"I said that's Sterling, that's Sterling! It was very heart wrenching, and my husband said go pack your suitcase. Part the way down there, the neurosurgeon said we can't wait on you all, we need to do surgery, and he told me the extent of it."
Sterling fractured his C5 vertebrae in his spinal cord. It left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The intensity he used to put into football during his time at Union High School now goes into rehabbing his injury.
"I just know that I've been through pain, and I've gotten tired, and I've gotten weak before, and I felt like I couldn't do something, but I've always tried to push through," Sterling said. "God's just really been loving me and lifting me up and giving me the mindset that I can get it done."
"I don't know how people could get through it without their faith," Sharon said. "I mean, who would you hold on to? I pray all during the day. I used to pray a lot before, but even more so now. That's what gets me out of bed, having my faith, and knowing that God is with us."
The NCAA has an insurance policy to cover catastrophic injuries, but that doesn't cover Sterling, since Lindenwood was transitioning from the N-A-I-A to Division 2. He does have personal insurance, and some through his school. Donations have also poured in from around the country, and right here at Union."
"People were sending us care packages, they were sending us money, they would treat us out to dinner," Sharon said. "A lot of people reached out to us and quick that had gone through similar incidents, too."
Doctors aren't sure if Sterling will walk again, but he says one thing is certain: he won't stop trying.
"I've always had that kind of mindset not to give up, I'd always try to run people down even if they're 10-15 yards ahead of me," Sterling said. "I just always had the mindset not to give up and push my limits and see how far I can go."
There are a few ways you can help support Sterling and his family. First of all, they ask for your prayers for Sterling's continued recovery.
T-shirts and wristbands are available, and there's a fund set up at Bank of Oklahoma.
Donate Money: "Sterling Thomas Fund" at any Bank of Oklahoma location or by mail.
Push, Push, Pray T-shirt: http://www.canetshirtcompany.com/
Cane T-shirt Company
812 W. Elgin
Broken Arrow, OK 74012