GROVELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - When you think of team captains you often think of the players with the fastest feet or the top scorers on the squad, but in DJ Myers’ case it’s all about being the team motivator.
It’s not a role DJ was expecting to take in his senior year, but one he found himself owning after an on-field injury ended his high school football career.
On July 25, 2017, DJ was in scrimmages with his South Lake teammates during a camp in DeLand.
DJ, playing defense at the time, went for a tackle and teammates said he ended up taking hard hits from both sides and going down to the ground hard.
"That's all I can really remember. My eyes just closed and when I woke up my body was just numb," said Myers.
His mom, Rhonda D'Haiti, said he had to be airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center due to the severity of the injuries.
Ten hours of surgery and months in the hospital would follow.
DJ was left basically paralyzed in most of his body and stuck in a wheelchair.
"The first thing he said was, 'Mom, if I can't play football, I'm going to die,'"said D’Haiti, choking back tears remembering those first days after the accident.
The family said their were good and bad days, but as DJ’s teammates and coaches rallied to his side the then 16 year-old found the fight he normally let loose on the field.
"Oh, he's incredible. I knew DJ's always been a fighter. He was a fighter on the field," said South Lake Coach Mark Woolum.
DJ worked through physical therapy, slowly gaining back feeling in his chest and arms.
His mom said he even fought back enough to go to homecoming just a few months after the accident.
Now, he’s back in school at South Lake High and taking on team captain duty with a twist on the football field.
Teammates said DJ is at every game coaching them and motivating them from the sideline.
He was breaking down their game footage while still in the hospital.
DJ’s inspirational touch doesn’t end on the field.
He now shares his story with younger kids, other patients in the hospitals fighting their own injuries, all in hopes of passing along the lesson he’s learned: Never give up.
D’Haiti said DJ has even taken on duties as a teen advisor at the hospital where he recovered, hoping to better patient care for others going through tough times.
All along though, DJ still has his eyes on the field.
Both he and his teammates are sure that he’ll run that field again one day.