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Bulldogs Sports

Dallas Cowboys have their heroes, too

Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2009 by Todd Archer
SAN ANTONIO – Less than 100 yards away, Corey Fulbright's life changed forever Dec. 14, 2002.
In the Class 3A Division I state final against Burnet inside the Alamodome, Fulbright, a defensive back for Everman, fractured his C-5 vertebrae while breaking up a third-down pass. Burnet's quarterback was Stephen McGee, the Cowboys' fourth-round draft pick.
On Saturday, Fulbright returned to the Alamodome for the first time since that game and met with McGee almost a football field away from where the injury took place.
"It's great to see him again," McGee said. "Just a warrior. I can't imagine being out there, playing football, running around, having the time of your life and in the next moment you'll never walk again. Just to see him here, it's an honor for me."
Fulbright was among a handful of players with Gridiron Heroes – a spinal cord injury foundation – to visit the Cowboys' practice. Among them was former DeSoto defensive back Corey Borner, who is in a wheelchair after suffering a spine injury during a May football practice.
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For about 30 minutes, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, coach Wade Phillips, other assistants and all of the players came by to talk to the young men, take pictures with them and sign autographs.
"You can see from the smiles on their faces what it means," said Eddie Canales, the founder of Gridiron Heroes.
Canales' son, Chris, was paralyzed in a game as a senior at San Marcos Baptist Academy in 2001, and they were in the Alamodome when Fulbright was hurt.
"He turned to me and said, 'Dad, we need to go help him. I know what he's going to go through,' " Canales said.
The foundation is more about supporting families than research on spinal cord injuries. Next summer, the Corey Fulbright A Miracle In The Making Rehabilitation and Development Center is scheduled to open in Everman.
For the Cowboys, the players' presence was part inspiration, part reminder.
These men play a game built on violent collisions where one hit can change everything. The Cowboys saw that in May, when the indoor facility collapsed and left scouting assistant Rich Behm paralyzed, special teams coach Joe DeCamillis with a broken neck, assistant trainer Greg Gaither with a broken leg and college scouting coordinator Chris Hall with a dislocated shoulder.
"A couple of days ago, my legs were killing me, but then I see Rich over there and he says, 'Man, you look like you're running faster,' " linebacker Bradie James said. "I can't complain. But you know playing this game at any point, you can be in the same situation."
Before he left for camp in San Antonio, Patrick Crayton, a DeSoto grad, visited Borner to see how he was doing. They mostly talked about football, and Crayton hugged him Saturday. In between the picture-taking, Borner said he still loves the game.
"You can't get away from it," Crayton said. "If you love the game once, you'll always love it. It's embedded in you."
And it is that way with Fulbright, who in 2005 graduated with an associate of applied arts degree in acting performance from KD Studio, an acting school in Dallas. He remembers the fateful play like it was yesterday, as does McGee, who recalled the silence in the dome as emergency staff helped Fulbright.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee visits with Corey Fulbright after practice Saturday. Fulbright was paralyzed during a 2002 state championship game at the Alamodome in which Everman was playing against McGee and Burnet High.
"I was still conscious, and it was like my body was just numb," Fulbright said. "Like if you hit your funny bone, that's how it felt."
But on his right hand, Fulbright wears a gold ring. A big E is surrounded by some diamonds. It's the Everman state championship ring from 2002.
"If I can play again, I'll play in a heartbeat," Fulbright said. "It was fun. Just the crowd, being out on the field, getting to hit. I loved to hit."
For more information on Gridiron Heroes, you can visit the Web site www.GridironHeroes.org.

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