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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A coach knows the importance of high school sports

Some cynical folks have it wrong.
They dismiss sports and game results, saying they are not life and death.
High school football coach Alfredo Calderon would beg to differ.
“The doctors have told me that I shouldn’t be out here. They told me I should stay home and let my body heal. Well, if I didn’t have this, I don’t know what I would do,” said Calderon.
Calderon was on the sidelines with the Michigan Collegiate football team as the Cougars rolled over host Plymouth Educational Center Prep, 45-0, one recent Friday evening.
The locale isn’t surprising. Calderon has been the head coach of the Cougars for years.
Only he was in a sit-down walker. While he could get up and stand, those moments were brief. Calderon had on the obligatory headsets.
He knows he is not just fortunate to be with the Michigan Collegiate Cougars in the fall of 2014. Calderon is also fortunate to be alive.
It was Thursday, Oct. 31, when he began to feel ill. He told his wife that he thought they should go to the hospital.
“It was a boil. I’m diabetic and I’ve had them before, so I wasn’t too concerned. But one doctor came in and then another and another. That got me a little worried. I told them I had a game the next day.”
Michigan Collegiate was scheduled to play host Livonia Clarenceville at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, in a Division 5 pre-district tournament game.
At 3 a.m., Friday, the coach was taken into surgery. He did not wake up until December 17. He’d been in a coma. He had sepsis. His kidneys had shut down.
“Do you know what it is like to have a month and a half missing from your life? I had missed Thanksgiving. It was a week before Christmas and I had no idea. But the first thing I asked was `Did we win?’”
Michigan Collegiate had fallen to Clarenceville, 51-21.
While Calderon regained consciousness, he soon became conscious of the fact that he couldn’t talk. He could not feel his legs. He would have to re-learn some of the fundamentals of life like walking, standing and even going to the bathroom.
A month or so later, Calderon was rushed back to the hospital for an obstruction in the intestinal tract. Complications from that surgery ensued.
All told, Calderon spent over six months in the hospital. He still goes to the wound clinic regularly and has rehabilitation three times per week.
Calderon has come a long way. In football parlance, he knows there are many yards left to travel. He wears braces on his feet to combat foot drop.
“I’ve been with the team since the summer,” he said. “I was with them during passing camps. I was in wheelchair at Wayne State. It was just important for me to be here.”
Here, on that recent Friday evening, meant Kilgore Field on East Forest in Detroit. Calderon was on the headphones helping Johnny Guth, who has taken over as the head coach at Collegiate.
“Johnny is doing a great job. He was with me the whole time at Collegiate and he is like family.”
Calderon smiled and gave a thumbs up. You just knew there was nowhere he would have rather been than along the sidelines.
“This gets me going. This keeps me going,” he said. “There’s no way I would stay away if I could possibly be here.”
He missed the Cougars’ playoff game last year. They are 3-0 heading into a Week Four game against Detroit University Prep at Bishop Foley. Already, they are halfway to another berth in the playoffs.

No way Calderon will miss this one. Not with everything he’s been through. Not with everything he has done to get back.


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