GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — It's unlikely Andy Thomsen will ever play football again after suffering a severe spine injury after a collision in practice, but Grand Rapids, Minnesota, head coach Greg Spahn still calls the North Dakota State recruit's situation "a miracle."
That's because Thomsen can still walk and should be able to lead what his coach calls "a full life."
"One thing was taken away," Spahn said, "but he's still going to be able to get married, have a family, hunt, fish, all the things he loves to do. It's miraculous. It really is."
Thomsen, a quarterback for the Thunderhawks, gave a verbal commitment to the Bison on June 28. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior attended NDSU's camps and was projected to be a defensive lineman.
The heart and soul of our team suffered an unfortunate injury last Saturday. He was flown from GR to HCMC, had surgery Monday, and is expected to make a full recovery. This fund is intended of offset medical expenses. Any contribution is appreciated!https://t.co/7W5pIN6NtI— Greg Spahn (@CoachSpahn) September 3, 2021
"They would've loved him over there. He was perfect for what the Bison like to do," Spahn said.
But that changed Saturday, Aug. 28, when at a scrimmage Thomsen was injured after scrambling on a third down and diving for the first-down marker. His helmet collided with another player's and after lying on the turf for a moment, Thomsen stood up and walked to the sideline. Trainers put him through concussion protocol, but he was deemed OK. He didn't go back into the scrimmage and later rode home with his parents, stopping for a sandwich.
"It was really a routine play. There was nothing odd about it. He got up and walked off the field under his own power. We thought it was a 'stinger,'" Spahn said.
Thomsen's parents, just to be safe, later called a friend in the medical field they know to pick his brain. Thomsen was asked a series of questions, all of which checked out, until asked if he was having trouble hearing. When Thomsen answered yes, the friend suggested he go to the emergency room for a full exam.
When doctors examined Thomsen, they discovered several broken vertebrae in his upper back. He was flown by jet from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis to undergo surgery Aug. 30. Surgeons at Hennepin County Medical Center's trauma unit fused his C5-C7 vertebrae.
"The surgeons said that injuries like Andy's result in paralysis 90% of the time," Spahn said. "He's walking again and will live a full life. It was a miracle. Doctors told him the thing that saved him was his strength. He was so strong from working out that it was his saving grace."
That doesn't mean the road ahead won't be difficult. Thomsen is still wearing a halo brace and faces months of difficult rehabilitation. It will be expensive, so a GoFundMe account (https://gofund.me/236601f0) has been set up in an attempt to raise money for Thomsen. A family friend set a goal of raising $20,000 and, as of Tuesday afternoon, more than $20,500 had been raised.
"Andy has been able to sit up and stand but there will be a lot of healing and therapy ahead. Football is very important to Andy, something he has worked very hard for from a very young age. He is a very strong determined young man who is loved and adored by many," the GoFundMe page said. "Please consider donating to help support the Thomsen family with rehabilitation expenses and Andy's future needs. These funds will be going directly to Andy’s parents."