The football field at San Marcos Academy is home to some of Chris Canales's finest memories.
"Texas, it's almost like a religion here, so playing football is number one," he said.
On senior night back in 2001, it was the scene of his darkest moment.
"In the fourth quarter, four minutes left in the game, I broke my neck making a tackle on Monroe," Canales recalled.
Monroe Nichols played running back for Waco's Reicher High School that night.
"It was four minutes to go. I had one thing on my mind, and that was going to the endzone. And I remember breaking a few tackles and thought I was gonna go. I mean, if he doesn't tackle me, I score a touchdown and the game’s probably completely different," Nichols said.
Canales recalled the moment he made contact.
"The initial hit was like a white blur, and then, when I was heading to the ground, it almost felt like I was doing a 180. Everything felt like it was in slow motion," he said.
Despite losing his ability to play the game, Canales never lost his love for football.
"That hard work and determination that coaches instill in you help you get through your injury and, especially in rehab when you can't move, you have that determination to keep on going and pushing yourself harder than anything," he said.
Through all of it, he wondered what that moment had done to the guy he hit. So, 15 years later, they reunited.
"I don't know if it was guilt because I felt like I had done something. But I do remember playing it over and over again. And it kind of bothered me because something so small and so trivial as a football game turned into a life changing experience," Nichols said.
Nichols went on to play for the University of Tulsa. Canales started Gridiron Heroes, a nonprofit that helps people like him who've been paralyzed playing football.
"We have what really was a terrible event, no way around it, has turned into something amazing for so many people,” Nichols said. “I think they're helping 50 families around the country or something like that.”
Fifteen years ago, the field at San Marcos Academy linked Canales and Nichols in tragedy. Finally, they were able to leave it behind, thankful for everything that's come their way since.
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