“The love that Tyson and his family shared for me really helped me get through that,” he said. “I’m so blessed to have them. I had to come to the realization that it could have happened to anybody at any given time. Once I understood that, I was able to forgive myself.”
Bob Gentry doesn’t use the word “forgiveness” because that implies Coleman did something wrong. That wasn’t the case, so how could the family be mad at him?
“We wanted him to feel OK about things, as well as his family,” Bob said. “We’re not here from a vendetta standpoint in terms of, ‘You caused this.’ It was never that. Never even a question of that.”
Their bond strengthened over the years. The Gentrys often invited Coleman to their home for dinner. Coleman visited Tyson during his rehab. Once, Tyson spoke to the entire Ohio State team and thanked Coleman for being a part of his life.
“Ty just inspires people,” former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. “He’s been fantastic. That made everyone’s world a little bit more livable when his attitude was so wonderful.”
Gentry’s resolve has never wavered. He graduated from Ohio State and earned his master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. He’s certified in that field in Florida.
He married his college girlfriend last October and got his driver’s license renewed so that he can drive a specialized van.
Gentry also established a nonprofit organization that will provide financial assistance to people with disabilities and their families. That includes war veterans who have suffered serious injuries in battle.
Gentry, who just turned 29, remains hopeful about his prognosis as well. He refuses to dwell on his limitations.
“I’m content with the life that I have,” he said. “I don’t regret anything. If I have to be in a wheelchair the rest of my life, then I’m at peace with that. But at the same time, I’m still constantly trying to move my legs and hopeful that I’ll get out of the chair one day.”
Coleman shares that same dream. The two friends exchange occasional text messages throughout the year, just to catch up or offer encouragement. They sent each other wedding gifts. Coleman recently invited Gentry to attend the Vikings game at Tampa Bay in October.
They have a bond “for life,” Coleman said. It’s a friendship he couldn’t possibly have imagined when he walked into that hospital, nervous about how he’d be accepted.
“The relationship that we have is unbreakable,” he said.
Chip Scoggins email@example.com