Brett Gravatt was playing on the Penn State soccer team when he was vacationing with his brother to snowboard. A transfer from Akron, he always got a fair amount of time on the field and even scored his first goal ever in a last-minute goal that won his team a first round victory in the NCAA tournament.
However, during his time on the slopes, he was in a snowboarding accident that resulted in him breaking his back. The accident left him with two rods and eight screws in his back. He and his family also got the news that he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Looking back on it, Brett says: “I wasn’t saddened by it… Of course it was this awful thing, but I didn’t take it like how I thought I should. I should have taken it a lot worse than I did, but I just accepted it. I was fine with it.”
Afterwards, Brett used his sense of humor to cope, sometimes going so far as to have a joke or two at his own expense. It helped him accept his situation and lifted the spirits of family and teammates that seemed to take the news harder than Brett.
He has relied on the perseverance he learned in soccer to breeze through his physical therapy. He is now a regular at his gym where he constantly lifts weights and even plays basketball.
Still, it’s soccer that he feels he was always meant to play. And rather than be sad that he can no longer play, he has found a way to stay involved with his team. He currently has plans to go back to Penn State where he will help the team with tasks like helping the coaches with admin work and helping with video analysis of opposing teams.
But until then, his teammates and his coach have been by his side, visiting him often and letting him know that he is indeed still a part of the team. The coach even pulled some strings and had Penn State provide funds to drive the team to see Brett for an afternoon at his home in Virginia.
More determined than ever, Brett can’t wait to get back to campus but he also has his sights on something even more challenging: the 2020 Paralympic Games.