Senior Derek Klinkner led the Southwest Minnesota State football team onto the field Saturday for Senior Day -- a snow-filled game that ended with a 32-14 loss to Concordia.


But the game result wasn't the most important part of the afternoon. The emotion was. Per Patrick Reusse's column on Klinkner -- expected to be one of SMSU's top players -- last month:

School had ended the first week of May at SMSU. Klinkner was home at the farm outside Artesian, S.D., helping his father, Don, with a major project.

"We had a new well drilled,'' Derek said. "We decided it would be easier to move the water tank over there, rather than run a pipe to the tank at the old well.''

The water tank was basically an old, huge tire from which the feed cattle would drink. The weight was estimated at 3,000 pounds.

"We had 3 inches of rain that week, so the ground was soft,'' Klinkner said. "I was under the tire, trying to hook up the pipe, when the tank shifted in the mud and the tire came down on me. I was kneeling and, next thing, I was pushed onto my rear end into the mud.''

Don Klinkner was coming back from a heart attack and surgery in which he was given three stents.

"Because of that, my dad couldn't just pull me out from under the tire,'' Derek said. "It took some time.''

Once he was out of the mud and from under the tire, Derek was placed in an ambulance and raced to a hospital in Mitchell, S.D.

"The roads around the farm aren't exactly paved highways,'' Klinkner said. "Every time we hit a bump on the back roads -- which was all the time -- I was ready to scream.''

The injury turned out to be a dislocation of the spine, with the T-12 vertebra moved away from the L-1. He was taken to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., and underwent complicated surgery to put the T-12 back where it belonged, with rods to keep it in place.

Have a look-see at the rest of the piece on the above link. It's worth looking back on right about now.

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