On February 10th, 2014, I shot what I figured was going to be a pretty meaningless pre-season basketball game between the University of Michigan and Wayne State. Football season was winding down, so I was excited to finally shoot some basketball again, and these early season blow-outs usually offer up lots of chances to get photos of the new team. The game, eventually won by Michigan 86-43, was almost over when the now half-empty arena began to cheer loudly. It took me a second before I realized why the crowd was so loud so late in a blowout win. Then it hit me---Austin Hatch was checking into the game.
Austin, just 20 years old, survived two plan crashes---the first killed his mother and two siblings, the second, eight years later, took his father and stepmother---and yet here he was, checking into a game for the Wolverines. He had overcome a coma and intense physical rehab to be here. Soon after entering the game, he was fouled with Michigan in the bonus---he was going to the free-throw line. I can't imagine a more pressure filled free-throw with so little impact on the outcome of the game, but he calmly stepped to the line and hit nothing but net. The crowd went wild, and shortly after he was taken out of the game to a standing ovation, where he met his coach, John Beilein for a touching embrace.
Over the past 3-4 years, I have captured countless classic sports shots---touchdowns, dunks, three-pointers, a Big Ten Championship, and many more. But I don't think any of them will stick with me as long as this one. The courage Austin has shown to bounce back from horrific tragedy not once, but twice, is one of the most miraculous things I have ever witnessed and I still get goosebumps just thinking about it.
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