Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Modern Hero # 7: Many Heroes here

Cory Weissman and his parents.

I don't know who to tell you the hero is here.  Or maybe more accurately put, there were lots of heroes here.  Lets start with Cory Weissman.   Cory played basketball at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.  He was a 1000 point scoring guard in High School and his freshman year at Gettysburg he played a little but did not score. 

Shortly following the his freshman year he had a major stroke while lifting weights with a teammate in the gym.  He was rushed to the hospital and had some close calls before he was discharged to a rehabilitation hospital just 11 days after the stroke. 

His type of stroke has a 50 percent mortality rate and the other 50 percent have resulting major disabilities through the rest of their life.  Cory worked hard at rehabilitation and progressed to using crutches to walk (his left side was paralyzed.  His mother was a rehab specialist and she would take him daily to shoot baskets with his right arm since his left arm didn't work. 

Time when on and Cory's goal was to return to basketball.  Finally a year later he was able to keep the clock and stats book for his team at practices.  Eventually he worked so that he could get back on the court and work out with his teammates at practices and finally he was able to be the guard for the scout team to help his teammates prepare for other teams. 
Coach Petrie
Coach Nugent
He didn't give up but he wasn't really well enough to play in a game.  Finally in his senior year his coach allowed him to dress for the games and he sat the bench cheering on his fellow teammates.  He was voted as a team captain even though he wasn't expected to play.  The last home game came around, senior night, and his coach, George Petrie, worked out a plan with the apposing coach,
Rob Nugent for the Washington College of Chesterton, so that Cory could start and achieve his dream of playing, even starting in a college game. 

The plan was for him to play a token few seconds at the beginning.  After accomplishing that to the applause of BOTH teams and the Gettysburg fans he retired to the bench.  Surprisingly Gettysburg found itself ahead by 18 points at the end of the game and the coach asked him if he wanted to go in for the last minute of the game.  Needless to say he was ecstatic and jumped at the opportunity.  In he went.  Chesterton scored a basket still behind by too many points to have a chance to win.  He surprisingly called a time out.

Coach Nugent gathered his players around and told his players the strategy.  The plan was to foul Cory--gently-- to give him two free throws.  After the timeout Coach Nugent gave a hand signal to Coach Petrie across the court to tell him they were going to foul.  The inbounds pass came to Cory.  He was guarded closely by a Cheterton player who promptly grabbed Cory's jersey and tugged a little.  Immediately the referee called a foul and because they were in the double bonus he went to the line to shoot two shots. 

Both teams were now on their feet clapping and yelling Cory on.  The audience, fans for both teams figured out what was happening and the whole gym was on its feet urging Cory to score his first points in his only start and last game as a college basketball player.  Cory went to the line and was nervous as every person in the gym was yelling for his success.  It was a lot of pressure.  He shot the first shot and just barely hit the rim and bounced away.  Immediately everyone was quiet as several hoped and some prayed for him to make the second shot.

Cory actually was quite an accomplished free throw shooter.  Even after his stroke and much rehabilitation he had become a good free throw shooter, often making ten and twelve free throws in a row...after missing the first one. 

So he looked at the basket, calmed himself and shot...and scored his point.  The gym burst into a raucous applause for the young man who had put in three extensive years of rehabilitation to score that one point and fulfill another dream. 

Hurray for Cory Weismann.  Thank goodness for Coach Petrie who wouldn't let the opportunity by to start surely his hardest working player and then let him play the last seconds in the game.  Then thank goodness for Coach Nugent who saw an opportunity to do the right thing even though the game had gotten away from him.  Kudos to the players from both teams that cheered Cory on and for all the fans who wanted him to succeed regardless of their affiliation.  That night there was a plethora of heroes in that gym. 

It turns out that win made Coach Petrie the winningest coach in the History of Gettysburg College.  So of course he was awarded the game ball.  He took the ball and gave it to Cory to commemorate his victory of overcoming his stroke to reach his goals of playing and scoring in a college basketball game.

Three articles about that game:
The first from Deseret News -- a quick summary if that's all you have time for
The second a more detailed article by Sports Illustrated.
Finally an excellent but longish article about it by ESPN. 

Here's a video that tells his story in about five minutes:

Here is another one of my favorite songs by William Joseph called Heroes.  If you think it is a little tame for you wait until the second minute and then you will see what I like about it.  Enjoy!

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