Sometimes the best way to journey forward is to reexamine the past. When Dan first agreed to share his story with us back in September, his wish was simply to offer a message of hope to others.
“I hope that they see that even when you get knocked down, you can fight, you can work hard, and you can still get to where you need to be,” said Dan McNamee.
But in order to accomplish this, he knew he had to revisit difficult memories. Part of that process was arranging a reunion with Drew Mason, the player that Dan collided with on the night of his accident.
“To my knowledge and when he's talked to me, he has never held an ounce of animosity towards me for anything. I’ve never been to a high school football game, or worked a high school football game, and not thought about it in the back of my head. I’ve only seen the tape on two separate occasions. I watched it the day after [the accident], in the living room with my mom and my dad, and then I watched it on that following Monday at team film,” Mason said.
Prior to our arrival, Dan had never seen the tape of that hit. He told us he never felt ready to, until today. And so, with Dan and Drew's consent, they sat, side by side, to witness the play that changed so much.
“I’ve seen that in my head probably 100,000 times, especially when I was in rehab after I got hurt, and just to see it on tape, was just so fast because I guess in my head it was going in slow motion. It was like bit-by-bit-by-bit, and in my head it was a lot worse. It's been good to go through it, its been a lot of closure as well too,” Dan said.
“I couldn't have faced what he did, and be the person he is today,” said Nikki McNamee, Dan’s wife.
Today Dan is back in his hometown of Pikeville working at the local medical center.
His office is only a few blocks away from the house he shares with his wife.
“He’s my soul mate. That’s who he is. I would have loved him whether he could walk or whether he was in a wheelchair. I would have loved him either way,” Nikki said.
The two have an undeniable connection. And one that started at a place Dan still holds close to his heart: The football field.
“Football has always been special to me; it's always going to be special to me. I met my wife at a football game; we went to a Steelers game for our honeymoon. That just shows what an amazing wife I have that we went to a Steelers game on our honeymoon,” Dan said.
That Dan’s life impacts others around him - by now - should be obvious. But as Dan later told us, the filming of this series had a similar impact on him.
“18-years later just seeing, how much it affected people and how much lives have changed because of it, you become very humbled,” Dan said.
But the story doesn't end here, Dan says he plans to use this newfound perspective to continue his legacy in new ways moving forward.
“One thing Nikki and I would like to do is possibly create a challenger league in eastern Kentucky. It’s a great experience for kids with disabilities to play little league baseball,” Dan said.
And on the off chance you're worried about Dan moving forward, don't be. That same resolve he had as a 15-year-old boy, inspiring the entire city of Bridgeport, West Virginia, to rally around him is still there, as vibrant as ever.
Dan said, “a lot of times people want to judge strength by your physical abilities. I know my heart and will match up against anyone, my faith and mind will keep growing, and that is something I'll continue top work on, so, I just feel me getting stronger every day, and it is going to continue throughout the rest of my life.”