Fantuz Courage Award: The inspiring comeback journey of Chris Haas

Every now and then you will come across a story that not only inspires you, but also makes you believe anything is possible. The courageous comeback journey of Chris Haas is one of those stories, as the young man overcame the seemingly impossible and proved that determination and positivity can lift you beyond even the most difficult obstacles in life.

Haas is 19 years old, and he has been playing football since the age of 10. He has enjoyed great success on the field and was a key member of the Cambridge Lions’ OMFL championship team in 2015, a season which saw the team go undefeated.

Haas earned a starting job as a defensive back that season, despite it being only his first year with the team. Head coach Philip Edworthy said Haas played a major role in the Lions’ championship run with his unrivaled effort and natural leadership on the field.

But tragedy struck when Haas was involved in a serious car accident while on his way to celebrate with his teammates and receive his championship ring at the Lions’ team party at Boston Pizza.

“I don’t remember a lot from that night except a couple flashbacks here and there,” Haas said. “I was going down a hill and gaining speed when I hit a bump, which I thought bottomed out the car. And just as that happened, an animal ran out in front of me and I reacted by trying to swerve out of the way.”

Haas’ vehicle rolled multiple times, and he sustained serious injuries as a result. He woke up upside down in the vehicle and was airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital after being pulled from the wreckage.

With a badly broken leg, a ruptured spleen and cracked ribs, Haas faced a long and difficult recovery ahead of him. But it was the injury to his right foot that would have a lasting impact on his young football career, as a severe laceration from the accident led to half of his foot being amputated.

Doctors informed Haas that he would never be able to play football again, and that the chances of him being able to run, or even walk normally, were not good.

“My initial response to that was frustration and anger,” Haas said. “I felt like they were giving me limitations, and I don’t operate on limitations. My mind has no limits to what I can do, and when I heard that, I instantly wanted to leave the room.”

Haas said that even though he knew the doctors were experienced and knew what they were talking about, he simply refused to accept that he would never play the sport he loved ever again.

“I still didn’t believe what they told me for a second,” Haas said.

Haas’ initial frustration quickly turned into sheer determination, and he made a vow to return to the field once again. Haas somehow managed to maintain a positive attitude when times were incredibly tough, and he battled through countless hours of physiotherapy and a lot of hard work to make his goal a reality.

“I was able to keep a positive outlook on things because every time I felt down on myself I would think about what I was fighting to do and what my end goal was,” Haas said. “I also wanted to do it for the people around me, like my family and my school. I kept thinking back to a promise that I made on my second day in the hospital, which was that I was going to be back on the field that following September.”

The encouragement from his family and friends also had a huge influence on Haas’ positive mentality, and he said it kept him going during his difficult journey.

“They supported me every step of the way, and I felt like I owed them that in a way,” Haas said. “I also had a mentality that I could just give up or I could work hard and achieve what I wanted, and my positivity naturally came with that.”

Haas said the most difficult part of his journey was finding a way to overcome the obstacles he faced because of the amputation, with him having to conquer both mental and physical challenges during his comeback attempt.

“I was extremely determined to get back on the field,” Haas said. “The hardest part was waiting to get what I needed to be able to run, a functional prosthetic. Even though I had to wait, I was patient enough and when the time came I attacked the opportunity to get better and stronger and prep myself for the field.”

Lions head coach Philip Edworthy said that Haas always had a strong sense of perseverance, and even before the accident he was extremely determined to reach his goals. Edworthy coached the defensive backs and worked directly with Haas, watching him grow into an integral member of the team through pure hard work.

“Physically he didn’t have all the tools that some of the other kids had,” Edworthy said. “But his work ethic, football IQ and his willingness to learn and be coached allowed him to play above his stature and really learn the game. He became a leader on the team.”

Edworthy remained in contact with Haas during his recovery process, and he said the natural determination that Haas consistently displayed as a football player helped him greatly during his comeback attempt.

“His dedication and perseverance is really what allowed him to make the comeback that he did, when basically no one told him it would ever be possible to play football again after the accident,” Edworthy said.

Against all odds, Haas achieved his goal of returning to the field in September following his year-long recovery. He completed his comeback by playing with his new prosthetic for his high school team, the Jacob Hespeler Hawks. Haas then went on to play for the Cambridge Lions once again this past summer.

“I have no words for what the feeling was when I completed the comeback, it was surreal,” Haas said. “The emotions flooding through me was too much to describe. The adrenaline I had when I first came out at the home opener was the most I’ve ever felt, and also the most focused I’ve ever been.”

Playing with a prosthetic was a major adjustment for Haas upon returning to the field, but Edworthy said that Haas never let it affect his mindset. Haas once again remained determined, and never got down on himself if he missed a tackle or felt limited with his movement on the field.

“There were a couple times where he got hit hard because he can’t move as fast, and he would just get right back up and go on to the next play,” Edworthy said. “It never affected the way he played or the way he thought, and I think it speaks a lot to his character.”

Haas once again refused to give up despite facing the most challenging situations, and he has learned the intricacies of playing football with a prosthetic.

“Playing football with a prosthetic is a challenge, and it still is and always will be,” Haas said. “You have to change your outlook and how you approach the game. Also, you have to be mindful of how your foot feels and you have to constantly consider your foot in every situation.”

Haas said that the tools he learned as a football player helped him get through his recovery and come back strong after his accident. He realizes how important the game has been to him.

“My life has revolved around football for years and I loved every minute,” Haas said. “It has taught me so many valuable lessons that I used in my recovery as well such as hard work, determination and mental toughness. If I didn’t play football, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

But more important than football, Haas recognizes that he could not have returned from such a devastating accident without the help of those who loved and cared for him. He said that he is forever grateful for everybody close to him who helped him make it through such daunting adversity.

“The most important people in my life are my friends and family,” Haas said. “I know that’s a broad statement, but it really wasn’t just one person that helped me throughout the process and kept my spirits up high. The constant support is what kept me going in the bad times and gave me courage to keep going. It was everyone that did it, and I could never repay them for that.”

Haas is now in his first year as a student at the University of Guelph-Humber, and Edworthy said there are plans for Haas to be a coach for the Cambridge Lions in the future. With his natural leadership and the wisdom that he gained from overcoming such a major life challenge, it’s safe to say that Haas’ players will be in good hands.

Andy Fantuz will be honoring minor football athletes who have demonstrated outstanding character by overcoming adversity. The nominees will receive free Xenith helmets and shoulder pads courtesy of Andy Fantuz and Fulton Financial.

To nominate a player, please email us at info@canadafootballchat.com. CLICK HERE for more details.

 

About Xenith

Developed in Detroit, Xenith is driven by a relentless pursuit to protect athletes everywhere through groundbreaking innovations and product superiority. Xenith is the industry leader in football helmet technology and the company’s mission is to develop and distribute the best equipment in the world. Founded in 2006 by a former Harvard University quarterback and Columbia University physician, all Xenith helmets feature Adaptive Head Protection, a system of patented technologies designed to mitigate rotational and linear forces featuring the Shock Bonnet® Suspension System, Fit Seeker System and Shock Absorbers.

For more information, please visit www.xenith.com or engage with us on Twitter @XenithFootball and Facebook.

About Fulton Financial

Developed and Based in London, ON, Fulton Financial provides a full suite of financial services products. 

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