David Wilson spent last spring racing up and down the Chattanooga Christian school soccer field, displaying the skills of a talented midfielder and team captain who would lead the Chargers to the state semifinals.
Less than a year later, the 19-year-old’s short walk to midfield Tuesday evening at CCS had to be considered a major accomplishment.
Wilson was severely injured in the tornado that devastated Union University in early February, but with the help of crutches, he led his former teammates onto the field at halftime of the Chargers’ 4-2 win over Soddy-Daisy. That group includes younger brother Corey, a sophomore midfielder who wore David’s No. 16 jersey Tuesday and helped coach Shawn Brower present him with a plaque during a ceremony in his honor.
Staff Photo by Brett Clark-- David Wilson stands in front of the Chattanooga Christian School soccer team after walking to the center of the field with them during halftime of the game against Soddy Daisy High School Tuesday night. Mr. Wilson, who was caught under 21 feet of debris after a tornado his his college campus, was honored at the game.
“It’s neat to be back, seeing everybody and watching Corey play,” Wilson said. “It’s good to be back on the field, walking around again.”
Wilson had completed his freshman season as a Union soccer player when he was trapped for nearly five hours under more than 20 feet of rubble following the storm. His journey since being rushed that night to the hospital in Jackson, Tenn., has included a flight to the trauma intensive care unit at Erlanger and admission to Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation.
Leg injuries that caused muscle and nerve damage threatened Wilson’s mobility, and toxins from dying tissues endangered his kidney function, but after surgeries and weeks of rehabilitation, he walked out of Siskin on April 11. Even before being released from the hospital, Wilson was able to rejoin his former teammates on the sideline, and since returning home he has watched every CCS home game from the bench in his wheelchair.
“The first game was really hard to watch,” Wilson said. “I went back to my room and was kind of upset. But since then, it’s not been too bad. I get to sit there and yell and try to tell them what they need to do.”
Brower said Wilson has also visited several team practices and his presence has impacted everyone involved with CCS soccer.
“It’s been a point of encouragement, motivation and inspiration,” Brower said. “David is a great example of courage. I’m sure it’s difficult to see other players out there doing what he would love to be doing. I know he gets frustrated sometimes when guys don’t work hard, because he’d give anything to be out there working himself.”
With the Chargers lined up at midfield during Tuesday’s ceremony to recognize Wilson and his family, the player received a standing ovation before Brower read the inscription on the plaque, which expresses gratitude for his accomplishments and recovery.
“It was good to see him walk out here and have the team behind him,” Corey Wilson said. “He’s meant a lot to CCS soccer, and to CCS in general, so this was a great opportunity for us to do something for him.”
David Wilson is continuing outpatient therapy at Siskin, working on regaining his leg strength so he can one day walk on his own. Already relying on his wheelchair less, he said he plans to return to school in September and would love to go back to Jackson without it.
“I really don’t want to take a wheelchair back to school with me,” he said. “They say I’ll probably need to, but we’ll see.”
No one who saw Wilson compete on the soccer field is surprised that he’s already made faster progress in his recovery than his doctors anticipated. And his former coach said Wilson’s tremendous athletic ability, which included scoring three goals last year in a state-tournament match to lead the Chargers back from a two-goal deficit, was only part of his contribution to CCS.
“He dedicated four years of his life to this team, not just with his play but also with his leadership, character and service,” Brower said. “He has modeled what it means to be a quality Christian soccer player. He’s given us so many reasons to celebrate over the years, and in return, a community should seek to build people up when they’re hurting or down.
“We wanted to let him know we’re behind him, that we haven’t forgotten about him. It’s easy to get back into your day-to-day life and forget that this isn’t over for him. He has to live it. We want him to know that he means as much to us today in as wheelchair as he did when he was scoring goals in the state tournament.”