For most people, paralysis from the waist down would be the end of their hopes and dreams in sports. For Martensdale, Iowa resident Dean Furness it was just the start of a path he'd long dreamed of taking, sparking a return to the football field as an assistant coach.
As reported by Des Moines TV network KCCI, Furness, a former college football player, was paralyzed when he tried to lift a 1,000-pound hay bail to an upper rack of his family's barn with a loader. The Iowa husband and father had the bail collapse back on to him and leave him instantly paralyzed, with subsequent spinal surgery failing to regenerate motor function to his lower body.
While many would have fallen into a lengthy depression by the horrible turn of events, Furness used it and the immense support that poured in from the small, tight-knit community to push him towards a new goal: physical stability in a wheelchair and a high school football coaching license before the start of the subsequent season in 2012.
"[Martensdale (Ia.) St. Mary's High football coach Randy Folkerts] continued to ask about having me coach, and then once the accident happened last winter, he said 'Now you really have to do it.'"
Furness has done it and then some, going far beyond being a motivational source to provide key insight from his own collegiate experience and critical video analysis that helps the program compile its game plans each week. Folkerts called Furness' video analysis, "amazing," and players told KCCI that the Folkert was key to helping the team push to achieve its goals every single day.
For his part, the coach -- who serves as a financial planner for Wells Fargo in his day job -- made it clear that his new role at the school had helped give him a new goal to work toward, all while giving him the leverage to flex a bit of his trademark good humor.
"You talk about motivation with the kids and try to tell them about the struggles people have and that they don't have it that hard. It's not very often you can actually show it to them.
"People start to complain about their feet hurting, and I'll just look at them and say, 'Really?' It shuts them up."
It should be noted that final statement from Furness comes with a sly grin, something he's provided plenty of since returning to the football field, a long-awaited reunion between a man and his favorite pastime helped along by an unfortunate and unforeseen tragedy.