Kansas.com

Senior lives final season on sideline

Published Oct. 8 at 1:48 a.m. | Last updated Oct. 8 at 2:03 a.m.

"I live for this" is overused, especially in sports. Games can be important, and to a select group of athletes they pay the bills.

But how many people truly live for a sport?

Andover Central senior Kyle Nyberg hasn't played a down of football since his sophomore year. He was 175 pounds before the accident, an athlete with quick hands and quick feet that coach Tom Audley insists would have played as a junior and senior, had things gone according to plans.

Things changed quickly on July 3, 2009. He was a passenger in a car making a left turn when a truck hit his side. He spent two weeks in a hospital, suffering brain trauma, before being flown to the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb. Nyberg spent three months in a coma and didn't leave the rehabilitation hospital for five months, missing the entire football season. In his first intimate interaction with the team since before the accident, Nyberg told the teammates at a senior camp this summer something they won't forget.

"He told us, 'I came out of my coma so that I could be with you guys and win a lot of games,' " Andover Central defensive end Cullen Nauck said. "That definitely drove us forward. It was motivation. This kid can't play football, but he's here for us and he wants us to do the best that we can. We're playing for him."

Nyberg is a teenager with plenty of jokes. He's a master of dry humor. The brain trauma may have caused delayed speech and short-term memory loss, but he's still sharp when the mood calls for it.

However, on the summer night he told teammates he couldn't play anymore, they knew he was being sincere.

"He told us on our senior camp out that one of his goals was to get us as far as he could and to help the team," quarterback and safety Landon Huslig said.

Nyberg is at practice every day for the Jaguars (4-1). He went through months of therapy to be able to walk and talk so he could get back to a sense of normalcy. He can't participate in full contact, but Audley has given Nyberg the task of coaching the freshmen offensive and defensive lines.

"I'm coaching in football now because if I have another head injury playing football, I'm dead," Nyberg said. "And being dead would not be good."

Audley says Nyberg's commitment to the sport and his friends have done more the team and the coaching staff than they could ever do for him. But Nyberg's mother, Rohna, thinks Kyle would not have advanced as far as he has in the recovery of his motor skills, speech or muscle development if it were not for coaching staff and school district giving him the chance.

"I have nothing but admiration for the school system — all of the teachers and coaches," Rohna Nyberg said. "Without them, I don't think that we would be as far as we are."

Check Chris Elliott's high school sports blog at blogs.varsitykansas.com. Reach him at 316-268-6296 or celliott@wichitaeagle.com.