In Septermber of 2009, Jared Coppola was diagnosed with significant paralysis after suffering a particularly brutal hit in a St. John's (Mass.) Prep football game. The injury has left Coppola in a wheelchair since that game, though it never shook his commitment to his school's football program.
On Thanksgiving, Coppola gave back by inspiring his teammates against the school's biggest rival, Xaverian Brothers (Mass.), when he stepped out of his wheelchair and reached midfield with the aid of a walker for the opening coin toss. Coppola called tails, won the toss, and eventually elected to defer.
According to the Boston Globe's Mike Carraggi, that tails call also later proved to be a key decision, as St. John's used the first possession of the second half to pad a narrow lead, eventually landing a 21-12 upset of the highly favored Hawks.
The victory earned more than just pride for St. John's Prep, too: The traditional face-off was also a winner-take-all game for the Catholic Conference championship, with the victory earning the Eagles a spot in the state playoffs.
If there was any doubt what was motivating the Eagles during the win, one only need look at the box score, which featured two touchdowns next to the name "Coppola." That scorer was Tyler Coppola, Jared's younger brother and St. John's star running back.
"When I take a big hit and feel some pain, I just think about what he went through and I keep on playing,'' Tyler Coppola told the Globe.
For his part, Jared Coppola said the game was a huge event for him personally, both because of the win and the ability it gave him to show the entire St. John's fan base how much progress he has made since the injury.
"I'm glad [Tyler] ran hard and that the whole team stepped it up today and played big,'' Jared said. "Just to realize that my hard work paid off and let everyone know how far I've come since I got hurt was great.''