Denton Guyer senior Cole Schroeder was attending a bonfire with his friends in January when a pellet from a shotgun shell flew out of the fire and hit his right eye. Schroeder, who was Guyer’s kicker for the previous two seasons, was rushed to the hospital and immediately underwent several surgeries and tests to stop the bleeding and restore his eyesight.
The family got opinions from several doctors and they all agreed: his eye was unable to be saved. Schroeder underwent surgical enucleation which removed his eye but left the muscles that surrounded it intact. His eye was replaced with a prosthetic which looks strikingly similar to his left eye.
“We were worried for him. He was going through so many different tests and surgeries and we weren’t quite sure what was going,” Denton Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “It turned out that the eye needed to be removed and he kept a great attitude through it all.”
Schroeder underwent a long process of recovery that kept him sidelined from the soccer field last season. Part of the recovery efforts included gaining back some of the muscle that he lost while recovering. Schroeder returned to school about a month after the accident but he was only just beginning in his recovery efforts. The immobility that came with being hospitalized caused him to lose 15 pounds during his recovery. It took him under a month to gain that 15 pounds back and tack on an additional 10 pounds of muscle.
“He was such a hard worker through his recovery and he would go into the weight room even more determined to get back to where he was,” Walsh said. “He inspired his teammates to work harder as well.”
But, being able to lift a bar with one eye is one thing, being able to have enough balance and accuracy to kick a football in between two narrow posts is another. However, Schroeder has defied all odds and Coach Walsh said he has been every bit as good as he was last season when he made 39 of his 45 extra point attempts and all four of his field goals.
“When he first came back out to the field I thought there was no way he would be able to accurately kick a football,” Walsh said. “I honestly thought that he was going to Charlie Brown his kick and miss, but he kicked it right through the uprights. Amazingly, he’s able to kick with one eye just as good as with two.”
Schroeder raised some eyebrows in Guyer’s Spring Game — his first game since the accident — as he nailed two 40-plus yard field goals, Schroeder has since made 25 of his 28 extra point attempts this season and four of his five field goal tries. He has also taken all of the punts for the Wildcats and holds averaged over 30 yards a punt.
“It really is amazing how he has been able to return to form and there hasn’t been any sort of perception issues,” Walsh said. “I’m just as confident with him lining up out there to kick as I was before.”
In addition to his kicking duties, Schroeder’s eye loss has been such a non factor that he has lined up out wide and even succeeded in quarterback reps in practice.
“We’ve had some quarterback depth issues and he played quarterback in the past,” Walsh said. “I put him through quarterback drills and he makes the throws with pinpoint accuracy.”
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Schroeder has maintained a positive attitude and focused on recovering rather than dwelling on the past. He has remained constant in his love for life and not letting anything hold him back from what he wants to do — including going cliff jumping.
“His attitude has been the same throughout the entire recovery process. It’s never been about him wanting people to feel bad for him, but always him wanting to get back on the field,” Walsh said. “Cole is so carefree and he’s not going to let a prosthetic eye hold him back in any way.”