Local organization supports football players with spinal cord injuries

When an audible is needed Gridiron Heroes are ready to score

SAN ANTONIO – It is one of the most popular sports in America, for kids and adults, for players and fans. Football is not only a game, it is a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people who are directly involved or just cheering from the sidelines.

As it turns out it can be a dangerous and life-altering sport as well. Injuries sustained on the field by players can reroute their future along with their family’s future.

It happened to the Canales family. Chris was playing in what turned out to be the last game of his football career. He was a defensive back and punter for Marcus Baptist Academy High School. He went to make a tackle during the 4th quarter. After making the hit, he was on the ground. He knew something was wrong. He was rushed to the hospital where he received the news along with his family. Chris suffered a spinal injury and he was paralyzed from the upper body down.

“It’s tough, I mean, he has an ICU room filled with all of his teammates, his coaches, everybody there waiting to see the outcome of Chris’ injury. Yeah, you’re surrounded by all this help, at the same time you feel so lonely,” said Eddie Canales, Chris’ dad.

That loneliness became despair. The Canales family really didn’t know where to turn.

“At the time there was no help. Coaches didn’t know what to do, where to go, how to help the family. They didn’t know how Chris’ life was going to change or how the family’s lives were going to change,” Eddie Canales said.

The Canales family figured it out along the way.

Heroes were born out of the tragedy. Specifically, Gridiron Heroes.

“Gridiron Heroes works with young men that have suffered spinal injuries playing high school football,” Canales said.

Part of the recovery is dealing with the ups and downs. Chris was going through that phase so his dad decided it was time to get him out of the house. They went to a high school football playoff game. Early in the game a player, Corey Fulbright, was hurt and Chris just knew it wasn’t good and he had to help.

“He said ‘dad I know what he is going to go through you know what the family is going to go through we need to go help.’ That was the inspiration for starting Gridiron Heroes, that was the good lord telling us this is our purpose,” Canales said.

I wanted to be there for him, let him know a little of what I went through,” Chris Canales said.

The organization helps take the player and the family through the process step by step. The physical and the mental aspect of recovering. Chris concentrates on the athlete while Eddie helps guide the family.

“A lot of times when I go to talk to the player especially when they’re in the hospital or rehab, we don’t really talk what’s going on with them, we talk about sports, football,” Chris said.

One of the many things that bind.

So Far Gridiron Heroes has helped some 90 athletes. They have also supplied 15 athletes and families with specially designed vans.

KSAT General Manager Phil Lane and Sports Director Greg Simmons presented Gridiron Heroes with a check for $25,000 during the KSAT Pigskin Classic in the Alamodome on Aug. 27.

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About the Author

David Sears, a native San Antonian, has been at KSAT for more than 20 years.

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