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Posted 7/31/2012

By Nick Gourdoux

Leader Telegram Staff

 

Martin Adams hasn't been to his house since a catastrophic work accident landed him in a wheelchair in mid-June.
That doesn't mean he hasn't been home.
The Chippewa Valley Predators coach and NEFL's all-time leader in wins ruptured the patella tendon in his left knee and broke his left kneecap while also ­dislocating his right ankle and breaking the tibia and fibula in his right leg.
To pass the time in his small room at Dove Healthcare where he does his rehabilitation, Adams fills his time with football, which comes as no surprise to those who know Adams.
"If you physically didn't see him in a wheelchair, you wouldn't know he was in a wheelchair," general manager Matt Risen said. "He still gets around to practice, and he still does his film studies. He's probably more focused now because he's got more time to come up with schemes."
He has also been more focused because today he leads his team in the NEFL semifinals against the Lake Superior Rage.
Queens
Adams grew up in Queens, New York, and played ­middle linebacker at Bayside High School. Adams' father was a respected but hard-working auto mechanic and his mother was a nurse. They put bread on the table, but Adams described his family as "lower middle class."
"This game saved my life," Adams said. "There was a lot of drugs and stuff like that, but I played football. Money was hard to come by, and one day a guy asked me about basically making some bad decisions and stuff like that, but I said ‘Absolutely not, I have to go to practice.'
"It's because of that decision that I made that I credit everything I have in life. I went to college and graduated but I easily could have gotten caught up in that stuff. That's why I tell kids that football saved my life and, honestly, I'll do this until the day I die."
After college, Adams called it quits. He retired from football, only to find himself working in a dead-end job in a small back office of an investment firm. His passion for the game, however, still burned.
Inspired in part by the Chevy commercial that boasted Eau Claire as the safest city in the country — and in part by the prospect of love — Adams moved to the Dairyland.
Eau Claire
"I put my two weeks notice in, packed my stuff and I was gone," Adams said. "Ever since then, life has been great. I love Eau Claire."
The move to Eau Claire reignited Adams' passion for football. He coached youth teams at the YMCA for a couple years before moving on to coach varsity linebackers at North High School for almost a decade before becoming coach of the Predators.
"He's the only person that's been with the team since the beginning — one year longer than me," Risen said. "He does everything he can to make his team better."
Through football, Adams became a part of the Eau Claire community, and, through the Eau Claire community, Adams met his wife Robin. The two are expecting their first child in a couple weeks.
Usually, that's where the story ends — the athlete makes the right decision and everyone lives happily ever after. Not for Adams. His devastating injury threw a wrinkle in the otherwise familiar story.
Recovery
Adams can't go back to his house — he lives on the second floor and his injuries make climbing stairs impossible. There is no set timetable for when he will be able to climb stairs, or even walk again. Instead of prepping his house for the baby that's due in a matter of weeks, Adams is stuck in his room rehabbing.
He passes his spare time by hosting guests — ranging from his wife to friends to players — and watching film. His only escape from the rehab facility are Thursday practices and weekend games.
"He studies film like I've never seen before," Risen said. "He's always asking for more film. I think I've delivered film up to him at least three times already this week."
The only game Adams missed was the first game against the cross-town rival Eau Claire Crush immediately following his injury. Adams was able to watch the game via Skype, but the Predators lost a heart breaker in overtime. The loss, combined with the time away from the team and a new perspective gained from the injury, led Adams to "hit the reset button."
"I had a heart-to-heart with the team," Adams said. "I said to the team ‘We had a bad start to the season, so let's hit the reset button.'
"The team has bought into that and their attitudes have changed and everybody is smiling again. That's what motivates me everyday to work hard in physical therapy. It's been an emotional, tough ride, but it's been a unique, awesome ride at the same time."
Since hitting the reset button, the Predators have won four straight games, including last week's hard-fought win over the Fox Valley Force in the opening round of the playoffs.
"(The injury) has given me a new perspective," Adams said. "I go to one practice a week, and that's a highlight for me. Every little detail is met ­— details that I wouldn't have seen before I was injured."
Adams may not be able to return to his house again this season, but he is home every time he steps on the field.

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