It was a big night for Switzerland County freshman football player Colton Schirmer. He would be participating in his first varsity game against North Decatur last Friday night. He was a member of the special teams squad, and when the Chargers kicked off to the Pacers with 3:47 left in the first quarter, Schirmer did exactly what his coaches had taught him to do.
Pacer varsity coach Ryan Jesop said that Colton was playing on the kickoff return team.
“He just turned his head as a guy was running into him, and when he did, he had his neck lowered, as a kind of a bracing to turn around; and the guy just collided with him,” Jesop said. “These are all accounts of what other people have told us, because it’s not on our film, he’s out of frame until after the impact. He retreated on kickoff return, he was on the front line of the kickoff return; and he retreated back 10 years like we coached him, so he already had a 20 yard separation between him and his man. As he found the ball and turned to find someone to block, he was run into by an opposing player – and that just happened to be a two or three time All State lineman who was running into him.”
Jesop said that as Colton turned, his left side in the collarbone area was swollen, so medical officials think that as Colton turned, that’s where the impact was.
Immediately knowing that something was wrong, officials and coaches stopped the game; and after stabilizing him, Colton was airlifted to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, where he underwent surgery to stabilize fractures to his fourth and fifth vertebrae.
Jesop said that he has spoken with Beth Schirmer, Colton’s mother, two or three times a day, either by phone call or text; and that progress is slow, but coming.
“She said that today the nurses put him in a chair, so he went through PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy), and they’ve sat him in a chair,” Jesop said during this interview on Tuesday afternoon. “He’s not regained movement. It’s a weakened feeling of movement in the arms and upper body, but he does have some movement, not just real grip issues or control. I know that he’s got some feeling in his feet – some sensations and tinglings that happen whenever they do some of the PT stuff and kind of deep pressure on his kneecaps and feet and things like that. His legs, he has been able to feel some sensation there, but not any controlled sensation.”
Jesop said that the contusion on Colton’s spinal cord has caused swelling, which is still present, and that’s causing Colton some issues.
“He’s in good spirits,” Jesop said. “His mom talked with him today and said, you know, if he understood what was ahead of him, and he said, ‘Yea, I understand it’s going to be hard to get back to where I was and what-not, but he’s going to do it, though; and he’s going to do it for himself and his teammates’. That’s what he told his mom. It about had me break down.”
Jesop said on Tuesday that Colton will continue to be in ICU for the next few days, but doctors hope to move him early next week to a rehabilitation facility located on the hospital campus. He said that the family is also being provided with an efficiency apartment – but currently mom and family are not leaving Colton’s side.
As always happens, the Switzerland County community is rallying around the player and the family. To that end, there are several ways already in place for people to help.
“Right now we’ve got the two ‘Go Fund Me’ pages going, again with the North Decatur community starting one and myself and the football family here doing one,” Coach Jesop said. “We’re going to have collection buckets and helmets at Friday’s game (the last home game of the season versus Milan, kickoff at 7 p.m. tomorrow night); there will be people walking through the crowd with helmets. We’re also going to have some things at the entrances that people can donate to; and we’re also going to have the ‘ColtonStrong’ shirts, with his name and number on the back, as well as the phrase ‘As One’, which has been our team’s motto for awhile.”
Jesop said that the shirts will be available at the game, and have also been available online. He noted that people who have purchased the shirts online will be able to pick them up at tomorrow’s game.