Hayden Hamilton, 18, a former Spartans player, had been injured during a game late August 2018.
While attempting a tackle, the teen suffered a spinal injury, and was left paralyzed from the neck down.
Last week—three years after the devastating injury—he attended his graduation; and with the help of leg braces and a walker, he was able to cross the stage, donning cap and gown, and receive his diploma.
It took around two minutes for the teen to manage the feat, rising from his wheelchair and crossing the stage (which was actually the school’s outdoor track). But he had his therapist Ryan Lacey offering support by his side.
Hayden’s father, Chad Hamilton, captured the moment on video and later took to Facebook to post the remarkable feat.
“2021 commencement … Hayden walks across stage to get his diploma,” the dad captioned, proudly.
Hayden’s therapist told the Post-Gazzete, “In the years since his injury, Hayden has managed to go past his initial limitations. He was told he wouldn’t be able to do certain things that he is doing now. It is a great story.”
Meanwhile, Hayden said it was “cool” that he was able to rise up on his feet where the whole ordeal had started—the same field where his injury had taken place.
“I just wanted to be able to walk off that field again because I never got to do it on the night of the injury,” he said. “I would say that was the main goal, to walk on that field once more.”
The high school senior has also received plenty of support from his classmates, and he was even voted the homecoming king last fall.
Hayden got a standing ovation during the ceremony, as neither his classmates nor school staff had seen him walk since before he was injured.
“We had no idea, I was shocked. He deserved that standing ovation 100%,” Hayden’s friend Kobe DeRosa said.
Hayden plans to take classes at the Butler Community College in the fall, and is hopeful that he’ll be able to enter a four-year program.