Kurt Coleman is one game away from joining his Carolina Panthers teammates in the Super Bowl. Tyson Gentry will be watching from afar. Ten years ago, the two Ohio State Buckeyes were involved in a play that would change both of their lives forever. In 2006, Gentry, then a sophomore walk-on, ran a curl route during an Ohio State spring practice. Coleman, a highly recruited freshman from Dayton, closed on the receiver and tackled him from behind. An otherwise routine play resulted in a moment that went from sheer excitement to utter disbelief and a lifetime of wondering what if.
Gentry was rushed to a Columbus, Ohio, hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with a fractured fourth cervical vertebra—one of the most severe spinal cord injuries, one that usually results in paralysis in the hands, arms, trunk and legs. Gentry was in intensive care for two weeks. Coleman almost quit the game all together.
In a video put together by FOX Sports this past weekend, Coleman discusses the weeks, months and years that came subsequent to that otherwise routine play.
“I was very hesitant about going to the hospital because of the fact that I did that to him,” says Coleman, who had not known Gentry before that day. “I never played the game to injure anyone like that, and didn’t know if I wanted to play the game of football anymore.”
In 2009, WFNY had the pleasure of interviewing Gentry in what was just three years after his accident. Former WFNY scribe Denny Mayo ran track with Gentry and both attended Ohio State at the same time. Even back then, without having the benefit of a decade to mature and become all the wiser, Gentry was positive and uplifting.
“Motivation and inspiration for me, my big thing from the beginning has been perspective,” Gentry said. “Things are really put into perspective when your life is changed like this, and when I was in the hospital, seeing people with brain injuries or spinal cord injuries worse than mine really made me appreciate what I have. I mean yea, it sucks being in a wheelchair, and I wish I wasn’t in a wheelchair, but at the same time there’s still people that have it way worse than I do and I try to keep that in mind.”
He joked about having changed his name to “Tyson Jackson” (who was selected third-overall by the Kansas City Chiefs that year) and changing his position as well. And while none of that would be true, Gentry has used this moment to pay things forward, starting a foundation that allows for others who have experienced spinal cord injuries to get the treatment they need not just immediately after the incidents, but in the months and years that follow.
“It’ll be 10 years in April,” says Gentry. “I’ve been able to look and reflect back over these 10 years of how God has really brought everything together to be able to bring me through the difficult times.”
Gentry and his wife have become big supporters of the Panthers, cheering on his former teammate on his quest to win the Vince Lombardi. They have a son due in March, and his name will be Adam Cole Gentry—the middle name in homage to Kurt Coleman, former teammate and lifelong friend.