Little more than a year ago, Camdin Crouse was in a hospital bed in Montour County facing a long recovery after his left leg was amputated. His weight was way down and he struggled to curl 15-pound dumbbells.
Fast forward to earlier this month and he was strong enough to compete in the U.S. Paralympics National Championships.
Crouse, who played quarterback at Robert Morris from 2006-09, found himself in the hospital after an all-terrain vehicle accident May 3, 2012, in Snow Shoe, Centre County. The accident took his leg and nearly his life. The accident, he said, changed his life -- for the better.
His best friend, Lee Fulton, agrees with Crouse's assessment.
"It's a whole new beast," Fulton said. "You never know how a person is going to react until his back is up against a wall. I'm just thankful he responded for the better and not the worst."
During his recovery Crouse spent countless hours in the gym. Two weeks ago -- 13 months after the accident -- he wore his prosthetic leg and competed in the shot put, discus and javelin at the U.S. Paralympic Championships, placing among the top three in all events.
Shortly after the accident, Crouse learned he wouldn't regain his health soon enough to return to his job as a quarterbacks coach for Robert Morris. In fact, he wouldn't be healthy enough to hold any job for quite some time.
Fulton has been best friends with Crouse since the two were 16 years old, and Fulton had to watch as his best friend's weight plummeted, strength ebbed and his spirit struggled. His friend who once excelled at quarterback at Bald Eagle High School in Centre County and lived in the gym was staring 15-pound dumbbells down as his enemy.
"I shed tears and he shed tears," Fulton said. "We had our talks."
Those talks turned to motivation, a will to get back into the gym. Fulton said Crouse began to change about a month after he left the hospital, when the two got back into the gym, and Crouse's confidence started rushing back.
On a day in late December, Crouse met a visually impaired man through a mutual friend, who noticed Crouse's athletic build and suggested he get in contact with Teri Jordan, a former head coach for Penn State's track and field team and current programs director at Penn State's Ability Athletics Program. Crouse was looking to stay busy, and Jordan's credentials caught his interest.
The next day, he went to the program. Knowing he played quarterback, Jordan had him throw shot put, discuss and javelin his first day.
"It made sense," Crouse said. "I wanted to be an athlete, somehow."
So Crouse continued to train and to work out. He got healthier. He got stronger, as Jordan has seen Crouse bench press more than 400 pounds in practice. But most important, he has become happier.
"I always felt it happened for a reason," Crouse said. "Now my reason is to show people you can still be an exceptional athlete even with a disability."
Crouse has competed in multiple Paralympic competitions and qualified for the national championships, which were in San Antonio, a competition that helps determine the U.S. team for the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships, which takes place in July in France.
Even though he placed second in javelin, second in discus and third in javelin, Crouse did not hit the qualifying marks needed to make the U.S. team. Crouse was disappointed but proud of his accomplishments after only training for six months.
Now Crouse has set of new goals in life. He once wanted to be a coach. He wants to get a part-time job and go back to school, to get a masters in counseling and rehabilitation. He wants to help others like him. But he also wants to make the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.
"He's just very excited about life and what he can do," Jordan said. "Life might change, but it's certainly not over."
Mike Vernon: email@example.com or Twitter @m_vernon.