His nickname was always "Super Dale," so perhaps no one should have been surprised. Still, seeing Heber City (Utah) Wasatch High student Dale Lawrence stand up with mild assistance and light the school's "W" before its football game against Park City (Utah) High was an understandable shock for most in the crowd on Thursday, for a completely valid reason: Ten months ago, Lawrence was expected to spend the rest of his life as a paraplegic.
Consider the fact that the late Christopher Reeve was most often cited as a likely reference point for what the rest of Lawrence's life would be like, it seems that the teen is super indeed. After all, he's already outdone Superman.
"It's awesome," Lawrence told the Deseret News of his night back with the Wasatch football team. "They weren't even sure I was going to get any movement back at all. But I guess they were wrong."
As chronicled by the News, the Salt Lake Tribune and KSL.com, Lawrence's journey through paralysis began in January, when the then-senior suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a wrestling practice. Lawrence, who also stared on the Wasps varsity football team and earned his "Super Dale" moniker by smearing eye black in a superman's mask on game days, was left completely unable to move, and spent a full four months in a hospital before eventually leaving to begin rehabilitation.
The senior still graduated with the rest of his class -- a feat he chalks up to significant personal out-of-school assistance from Wasatch principal Shawn Kelly -- but was already focused on his next goal: Regaining movement in his extremities, and slowly but surely taking his life back.
On Thursday, he took a big step toward that eventual goal, both literally and figuratively.
"I was sure I was going to get it back to begin with. I thought I would anyways," Lawrence told the News. "I think in a few months, hopefully, I'll be walking a little on my own — just a few steps at that, hopefully. Little by little."
As if there were any question of Lawrence's true motivation, he made that clear in his interview with the News as well.
Asked what keeps him going, Lawrence didn't hesitate in his response: "The thought of just being able to walk again." And, he added while chuckling, "Hopefully getting out of the house away from Mom." …
When he regains more independence, Lawrence plans on going to college. He wants to study drafting and engineering. He also hopes to be able to play video games soon.
That's right, getting away from Mom and video games. If there were any concerns that his battle with severe injury would change Lawrence's kind and lighthearted spirit, those responses should quell them.
While Lawrence's own health is still the focus of everything he and his family do, his progress has been a clear source of inspiration for the entire Wasatch community. The school and others in surrounding Utah communities have helped raise $100,000 to help pay for Lawrence's medical bills and followed raptly as the teen has documented his progress on a Facebook page titled "Pray for Super Dale".
Now those who know him best are thrilled and immensely proud of the progress he has made.
"I think it's nothing short of a miracle," Wasatch principal Shawn Kelly told the News.