Tyler Sorenson listened intently to a story that sounded eerily like his own.
Sitting in a gym filled with his classmates, the Central High School senior paid close attention as U.S. Olympic track medalist DeeDee Trotter explained the obstacles she had overcome. People who doubted her talent and dedication -- or in Trotter's word, "haters" -- and of course the broken femur five years ago that put her future career in jeopardy.
After intense rehab and training, Trotter returned to the form that had helped her set the University of Tennessee record in the 400-meter dash and claim both the indoor and outdoor national titles in the 400. She qualified for the U.S. national team, helping the 4x400 relay win gold in London last year and earning a bronze in the 400 individual event.
As Trotter spoke, her two medals from last summer's Olympics around her neck, Sorenson couldn't help but draw inspiration as he continues to look forward to his own return from injury.
"I had cold chills during the entire presentation," Sorenson said. "It was amazing just hearing about her struggles and how she overcame so much to accomplish her goals. Of course I was thinking about my own situation.
"It was a very inspiring message, and when you consider what she's accomplished, I think everybody was just amazed listening to her."
Sorenson played middle linebacker and tight end for the Purple Pounders football team and competed in three events in track and field, throwing the discus and shot put and running the 200 meters, before a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum last spring ended his final football season before it began and threatened his overall athletic career. He since has had surgery and expects to return to the track this spring for all three events.
"Hearing what Tyler said, that's the absolute goal of why I speak," Trotter said afterward. "If I only reach one kid, I've done my job. My story is his story now."
Two years ago Trotter met Central track coach Jennifer Lewis when the Pounders worked out at UT and Trotter was training. The two struck up a fast friendship, and Trotter later stopped by a Central practice to offer encouragement. She had promised Lewis to return to the school after the Olympics, and her schedule finally got loose enough to make the trip from her Orlando, Fla., home Thursday morning. Before she left, Trotter autographed a pair of running spikes she had worn during her Olympic training.
"I'm planning being a coach when my running career ends," said Trotter, who said she intends to try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics before calling it quits. "So one of the things I really enjoy is reaching out to young kids. I want to let them know that you should never give up on your dreams or goals, whatever they are. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do something, and never stop working hard to reach it."
And as she tugged on the two medals around her neck, Trotter added, "This is not the jewelry of a quitter."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...