BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Overcoming adversity is all over Tyler Schilhabel’s playbook.
The Independence High School football coach suffered a devastating accident 13 years ago that left him paralyzed from the chest down. But he didn’t let that keep him off the field.
Now he’s taking on a new role off the gridiron, and it’s a true touchdown for this inspirational coach.
In September 2010 everything changed for Schilhabel — a quarterback for Independence High School. He had just led the school’s varsity football program to its first win of the season.
A boy who slept with his first football like a teddy bear, went to bed in his first set of football pads, and dreamt of playing in a state championship game, was finally on his way.
But the next time the Falcons quarterback would take the field would be in a wheelchair.
Two days after that victorious 2010 game, Tyler was riding an ATV in Pismo and he crashed. At just 16 years old, he was paralyzed from the chest down. But if Tyler’s will to win was impressive before his accident, his will to persevere after was something to behold.
Schilhabel says it was faith that pulled him through.
“A big part of that is the foundation I’ve been blessed with with my family and my faith,” he said. “You can’t control the past. Take everything that’s been given to you with a grain of salt and move on. And I truly believe those words, get busy living or get busy dying.”
Tyler Schilhabel has been very busy living.
Six years after he graduated from Independence High, he was back as head football coach. A few months later, he married the woman of his dreams, Courtney. Tyler says her strength rivals his own.
“The strength and selflessness she has is a testament to me and I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
It was strength they’d both need as they decided to start a family.
“We knew we would have to do (in vitro fertilization) because of Tyler’s paralysis … We didn’t know at the time that I also had some fertility issues,” Courtney Schilhabel said.
“We started right when we were dating, that was something that we were really open about.”
Their first two rounds of IVF were unsuccessful. Courtney almost didn’t want to do a third.
“It took me awhile to come around to come to the idea of doing it again … Going into the third round we had the thought of ‘OK, well this is our last, probably going to be our last round.’”
Tyler says he struggled watching his wife endure the physical and emotional toll that comes with IVF.
“At the beginning I thought that it was just because of me that I was having to put her through this,” Tyler said. “It was difficult to watch that.”
But on Easter Sunday this year, all that pain became worth it with one positive pregnancy test. After years of waiting, $70,000 spent on treatment, plus countless shots and tears they found out they were having twins.
“We have a strong testimony in our heavenly father, and we are glad He’s sending these babies to us,” Courtney said.
Tyler said the journey to their blessing was another test.
“There’s a lot of questioning in life. Especially in my life, I’ve had a lot of questions for what I’ve had to go through. This is just another example of you can question, and sometimes you might get an answer, but a lot of times you don’t,” Tyler said.
“You really have to have that trust and faith in something higher than yourself and for us, it’s faith in our savior Jesus Christ.”
Even as he prepares for another football season, these days Tyler’s playbook is all about how to handle newborn twins. Luckily, he has mentors to lean on.
“I have one of my, he is my biggest confidant and mentor, he’s in a chair as well, same level of injury as me, and he has triplets,” Tyler said.
“I’m talking with him and I’ve talked to him for years preparing for this. Really just trying to figure out what works best, trying to retro-fit the house to make sure I’m able to do what I need to be able to do with newborns.”
It’s a challenge Tyler will tackle with all the faith that’s carried him through on and off the field, his whole life.
The Schilhabels plan to announce whether they’re having boys, girls — or one of each — at Independence High School’s first football home game on Aug. 25.
The Schilhabels also have a baby registry. Click this link to view the registry and get their twins something to welcome them home.