Athlete overcomes odds to graduate
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Jalen Kinloch holds up his high school diploma after walking off the stage and graduating with his class May 26 at Fountain-Fort Carson High School.

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- When Jalen Kinloch ran on the football field to represent the Fountain-Fort Carson High School Trojans this past football season, he and his teammates heard a thunderous ovation from Trojans fans. No one knew at that moment that the next time Kinloch would make an appearance on the football field the thunderous ovation would be for him. That was the case Saturday during the Fountain-Fort Carson graduation ceremony.

The ovation had nothing to do with the fact that Kinloch was a member of the football team that gave Trojans fans a lot to cheer about during his three-year varsity career. It was not about the fact that he was an integral member of the Trojans baseball team over the same time span. This ovation was a testament to the courage Kinloch has shown fighting the toughest opponent he has faced on or off the athletic field.

While practicing with the Trojan baseball team March 15, Kinloch collided with a teammate while chasing down a fly ball. Unlike many other times he crashed into a teammate or opponent, this time he could not get up. School officials called 911 and paramedics called for a helicopter to transport Kinloch to a hospital to diagnose why he could not move his body. The diagnosis was every parent's worst fear, Kinloch had suffered a broken neck and had no range of motion in his body.

His parents Gerald Kinloch, a 4th Infantry Division sergeant major, and Elizabeth Kinloch, and his sister, Jasmine Kinloch, were faced with the prospect that their son, and brother, would no longer be the athletic, strong young man they had always known. The question at the time of injury was whether or not Kinloch would walk again; permanent paralysis was a possibility.

In the early stages of treating the injury, the Kinloch Family watched as Jalen Kinloch made small progress, sometimes getting feeling in his fingers or toes. Unlike a 48-minute football game where the outcome is known when the clock runs out of time, this was going to be a long process, filled with more questions than answers. Questions such as how much progress could be made in getting Jalen Kinloch back to as normal a life as possible and how this injury would affect an athlete who obviously never had to face this type of adversity in his young life went through his parents his heads.

Slowly the answer to the first question became one that gave a lot of hope to everyone as Jalen Kinloch got stronger and stronger as each day passed, gaining more feeling in his body as the therapy began to work. The second question was answered as soon as Jalen Kinloch could let his thoughts be known. He let his parents know that he wanted to walk onto the high school football field and receive his diploma with the rest of his classmates.

Seeing the condition Jalen Kinloch was in, not many held hope of him walking onto the field to receive his diploma, or even being out of the hospital, for that matter. The Kinlochs were hoping their son would get better each day, but accepted they could live with whatever happened.

His mother said it was something her son wanted, but she didn't know how realistic the goal was, until she saw his determination to graduate with his classmates was more than anything he ever showed on the sports fields.

Jalen Kinloch began improving so rapidly that there was hope he might achieve his goal, but, a week prior to graduation, the odds were still 50/50.

Four days before the graduation date everyone knew that Jalen Kinloch's hard work in therapy was going to pay off and he would be able to graduate with his class.

Saturday, Jalen Kinloch's classmates let him know how much his presence at graduation meant to them, as a huge sign was posted to the entrance to the field with a photo of Jalen Kinloch signed by many of his classmates.

As the students gathered to march onto the field, administrators, teachers and students came by to see how Jalen Kinloch was progressing and wish him well.

His smile, which could have lit up a dark night, said all that needed to be said about how he felt.

But, as good as he felt at that moment, there was another moment waiting for him that would bring even the strongest person to tears.

As the graduates walked onto the field there was the usual clapping and cheering from the overflow crowd in attendance. Jalen Kinloch was in the second wave of students to enter the stadium. The stadium erupted with chants of "Jalen" as people caught a glimpse of him on his crutches.

This time the ovation Jalen Kinloch heard when he came into the stadium was just for him, not for his teammates. This time it would not matter what the scoreboard read at the end of 48 minutes or seven innings, because the winning team was already established. Jalen Kinloch had won this game by a wide margin. Although he still has games left to win in his road to recovery, this game will always rank as a Super Bowl winning moment for the Kinloch Family.

Page last updated Thu May 31st, 2012 at 13:12