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Special Guests Ed Reinhardt Jr. and Ed Reinhardt Sr. Inspire the WAVE Program
The Good That Can Come Out of Tragedy: Turning Adversity into Opportunity 

By Michelle Netzloff-Luna
Cedar Street Times - July 12, 2019

"These folks are just destined to impact the world."  -Joe Sabah, Colorado Speakers Association

Based on the odds, Ed Reinhardt Jr. should not have lived. 90% of people who suffer his type of injury die.

But he didn't.

Late in the Colorado vs. Oregon game of September 15, 1984, Colorado tight end Eddie Reinhardt Jr. went out for a pass. As the 2nd leading pass receiver in the nation, this elite 6'7', 235 lbs athlete had just set a school record for pass reception at University of Colorado. Quarterback Steve Vogel threw Ed the ball, and it started as a successful catch for a two-point conversion that would have won the game. Ed ran the ball another 13 yards when he was tackled hard, but not an unusual grapple. Reinhardt's head hit the knee pad of Oregon player Dan Wilken, then hit the turf. He lay motionless for a short time but found his feet and stumbled off the field. Fans cheered and most assumed he had just dinged his head and would be fine.

But to the keen eye of Oregon neurosurgeon Dr. Arthur Hockey who was observing from the stands, Eddie's walk off the field was troubling. Although an Oregon fan, he had inexplicably decided to sit on the Colorado side that day to watch the game.

Within minutes of Eddie returning to the sidelines, his eyes dilated, his jaw locked and he collapsed. Dr. Hockey's worst suspicions actualized, and he immediately bolted for the Colorado benches. While attending to Eddie, he lamented out loud he wished he had Mannitol, a drug that reduces brain swelling. Miraculously, the team doctor had it and Eddie was given the life saving drug as he was rushed off the field on a stretcher, comatose.

A blood vessel had burst in Eddie's brain. He was rushed into emergency surgery and Dr. Hockey, who had accompanied Eddie from the field, performed the 3 hour operation to remove a devastating blood clot from Eddie's brain. In critical condition, his prognosis was dire. With only a 1 in 10 chance of coming back, the doctors warned, “He still could not survive. And if he does pull through,” they said, “he won't be Ed anymore.”

Eddie would spend the next two months in a coma, fighting for his life.

“A Lot of Things Changed That Day.”

Ed Reinhardt, Sr., in background and Ed Reinhardt, Jr., in frontEddie' parents, Ed Sr. and Pat Reinhardt, flew to their son's side. “By midnight I was standing over my son's bed,” recounts Ed Sr.

“I had been driving back from Wyoming with my son Tom, who was being recruited by Wyoming,” while Eddie's Mom was in Lincoln, Nebraska at the football game of John Reinhardt, another one of their sons. “Tom and I were listening to Ed's game on the car radio. Ed catches a pass, then John, then Ed. But the next few plays, no Ed. I said to my son Tom, 'the game's almost over, Ed should be out there.'

Then the announcer says there's a commotion at the bench, somebody's collapsed. As a parent, you get that gut feeling.

They announced #88 was down. It was my son.

A lot of things changed that day.”

When Eddie Reinhardt Jr. emerged from his coma 62 days later, he was like a new born child. Once an elite athlete destined for the NFL, he had to relearn everything he had mastered since infancy.

“We had to go back to the basics,” says Ed Sr. “creeping, crawling, walking, running, talking, reading, writing.” It took an army of 140 volunteers working 7 days a week for the next 4 years, then 6 days a week for two more years to help Eddie. “First he would crawl a few feet.” says Ed Sr. “Then an entire room. Even though his progress seemed glacial, he kept improving. It took two years to walk. He had to learn to speak, read and write again. It was his fighting spirit and courage.”

Neil Zouboukos, 1980-2007 Asst. Football coach for Oregon, extols the effort. “Ed Jr. had to overcome a tremendous amount of adversity. He applied the work ethic and determination as a football player simply to living, because that's what it took to make it from day to day.”

But undoubtedly, the foundation for Eddie's successful recovery was the undying dedication of Eddie's family/ "The real story is this family unit," says Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. "This is all about faith, and the Reinhardt's faith never wavers. There is no limit to what they will do... Such love. When this accident happened, they didn't ever break stride. There is just something inside the Reinhardt family. They have this drive and intensity.”

Eddie's Jr's parents and his five siblings-John, Rose, Tom, Paul and Matt-plunged in and did everything they could think of to make him whole again. They worked with him day and night, often as many as 16 hours a day. “People would advise me, 'why don't you move Eddie and do something else with your life, Ed.'  But I couldn't do that. I couldn't let go of him.”

For Ed Sr., his fierce commitment to his son was born out of his own traumatic childhood history of abandonment and divorce.

“My father left home when I was 9 and didn't come home until I found him 42 years later,・ recollects Ed Sr. 迭ejection is one of the toughest things to live with especially when you are rejected by someone who should love you. I couldn't seem to get my life started because of this mess with my father.”

So he began searching for his father until he found him in the hills of Oregon “I knocked on his door one day and said 'Hi dad, I'm your son. Do you remember me?' We went through a 7 year reconciliation, and I was able to forgive him. Before he passed away,

I said 'I love you, Dad. I've always loved you.'  He looked up at me and said, 'You're OK, kid.'
He didn't tell me I was a good worker, or a good father, he just assured me, head to toe, that I was OK. And that's the title of my book.

You need to tell your kids that everyday, 'you're OK' from top to bottom. That's our message. We also challenge those with relationship issues to reach out and make that happen. One of the hardest things I had to do was walk up to my dad's door after 30 years and introduce myself. But for me it was the best thing because then I could rid myself of the anger and bitterness that I carried for so many years. It was a blessing I was able to do that. I encourage fathers to tell their sons everyday, you're OK from head to toe. It's unconditional approval.”

What good can come out of it?

So for the last 25 years, Eddie and his father, Ed Sr., have traveled the country speaking about the value of a fighting spirit. They focus on two aspects: the good that can come out of tragedy and the importance of family, especially the father's influence.

“What good can come out it? It's been an absolute joy to travel with Eddie these last 25 years.” answers Ed Sr. “What has evolved is perhaps better than if he had continued to play football. Now Eddie has a place to move and inspire a lot of people.”

“This is Ed Jr's true vision....speaking to people about his comeback. Moving them. Infecting them with his spirit,” noted the Denver Post in a 1995 article about the Reinhardt's. “Together, the Reinhardt's deliver a message that stretches beyond Ed Jr.'s courage to a deeper tale about the importance of families, particularly fathers.”

I Have No Regrets

"The blessing of athletics," says Ed Sr., "is that they taught Ed the discipline to do his rehabilitation. I have no regrets. Something else could have happened. This is what happened. You can cry about your misfortune or do something positive. We chose to turn adversity into opportunity. Now we work with organizations and individuals who want to turn obstacles in life into opportunities for growth. We share our journey of anguish, love and empowerment ・ and show how ordinary individuals can do extraordinary things.

And as for Eddie? He still loves football.

"Great opportunity,” he smiles. “A preparation for life."

“Risking is the essence of becoming.” -Ed Reinhardt Jr.

The Reinhardt's present their heart warming and poignant story:

Monday July 15 at 3:30pm
Pacific Grove High School Gymnasium.
Open to the general public, all are welcome!

Please visit for more information. The Reinhardt's website


Click the link above to view “Second Son-Eugene Oregon and Ed Reinhardt, Jr” that is posted on YouTube for the compelling video story and footage of Ed Reinhardt Jr.'s inspiring road to recovery

Ed Sr. shares this incredible journey in his book “You're OK, Kid!: The Search for a Father's Love”  by Floyd Edward Reinhardt, available on Amazon


Packed Gym Hears Ed Reinhardt's Story 

Ed Reinhardt, Jr., receives a football helmet from the PGHS football team.

Ed Reinhardt Sr., and his son, Ed Reinhardt, Jr., were the guest speaker at The Wave Program of Pacific Grove on Monday, July 15 at 3:30 p.m. in the PGHS Gymnasium.

Reinhardt was severely injured in a football game in his sophomore year while playing tight end for the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Mr. Reinhardt will speak about his relationship with his own father and the effect his son’s accident had on that relationship.

Please listen to how this family faced significant challenges that go back to another generation. This story inspires us to look closely at our own relationships and inspires us to make them better.

He has made a miraculous recovery and will speak about his experience. The public is invited to hear his inspirational speech free of charge.



Mr. Reinhardt (Left) poses for a picture with his son Eddie Reinhardt and Jim Hansen, a former offensive tackle, team captain and Rhodes Scholar (1993) for the University of Colorado (1988-93). Hansen, who lives on Pacific Grove, was also a member of Colorado's 1991 National Championship team.

Eddie Reinhardt poses with Pacific Grove High School football coach Chris Morgan at a BBQ in Reinhardt's honor at the home of PGHS Athletic Director Todd Buller

Ed Reinhardt, Jr. Sings to the Wave Leadership (2019)

Reinhardt Question & Answer Session Wave Leadership (2019)

Contact Information

Phone: (408) 960-5194
Address: 1160 Seaview Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

What is the WAVE Program?

The Wave Program is a two-week summer day camp for girls and boys going into 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grade. We aim to provide an active, healthy, positive camp environment that sparks interest in team and individual sports and the arts electives offered at Pacific Grove High School.