Who would have thought that losing the ability to use your legs would be the greatest thing that could ever happen to you, especially when you’re a world-champion swimmer?I thought for more than a day about what has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in my life, and I could only ponder up a few accolades that I achieved as member of the UW swim team.Losing the ability to simply walk, let alone swim, seemed devastating to me.”Not so,” explained Dave Denniston, who was injured in a sledding accident over a year ago, which left him without the use of his legs. “It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. It changed my focus on what was important to me.”Denniston’s greatest day happened Feb. 6, 2005. It’s a date that will always be etched in the back of his mind.On this notorious day, Denniston was sledding with a friend when he lost control of his sled and hit a tree. Something wasn’t right, and Denniston realized it immediately.”I remember it exactly,” he said. “It’s all very clear.”Denniston’s injuries were severe. He underwent surgery to fuse his T-9, T-10, T-11 and T-12 vertebrae together. During surgery, doctors also cleaned out bone chips in his spine.”I was pretty scared,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. My abdomen swelled up and I thought I had punctured a lung because I was having a hard time breathing. I also thought I could be dying because I was bleeding internally. Looking back at it, I still get goose bumps.”Shocked and petrified, Denniston feared the worst. So, the former Auburn standout did what seemed fitting at the time. He took out his digital camera and began recording.”I thought I could be dying,” he said. “I was pretty scared. … I wanted to say my goodbyes to Mom and Dad.”It was kind of scary, so as soon as I realized that I was going to be OK, I deleted it forever because I didn’t want anyone to ever see it.”With news that Denniston would pull through, the swimming community was able to take a sigh of relief.Thousands of e-mails of encouragement were sent to him during his time in the hospital. Denniston still has not deleted one single message of support.”I couldn’t believe how many people wrote in,” he said. “I received well over 2,000 e-mails. It just made me feel special. I wish everyone could feel as special as I did during that experience. It was very memorable. It picked up my spirits and kept my attitude positive and in check.”Denniston’s positive outlook on life did not stop in the hospital room. Though he would later learn about his paralysis, his encouraging manner would only grow from there.Denniston knew his swimming days were behind him. In his tenure, he had achieved so much (World University Team member, World Championship Team member and Pan Pacific Team member), and now he was ready to start the next chapter in his life.”I pretty much had accomplished everything I wanted swimming-wise,” Denniston said. “I had to change my focus on the things I could and could not do.”Stricken to a wheelchair, Denniston was about to embark on an incredible journey to one day walk again. Swimmers are taught that success takes hard work, dedication and time, and Denniston was about to apply those principles in his road to recovery.Project Walk was started, and in a quick year, Denniston surpassed most expectations, including his own by walking 163 steps with support on the one-year anniversary of his accident.”I think he’s great,” Auburn swimmer Joey Schiender said. “I think that [walking] is pretty amazing coming from what he had.””It’s motivating in the fact that a guy has had to teach himself how to walk again,” USA Short Course World Team member Tim Liebhold said. “He is a great example of hard work and determination. He is a unique example for our sport. In swimming, you learn how to deal with suffering and how to get through pain. … He is a great example of how our sport can be a life example.”Now Denniston is on a mission to walk again and raise money for other victims of paralysis. Denniston also makes several appearances and speaks to many students about his condition.Just recently, he spoke to his largest crowd to date, a junior high with more than 500 kids.”It’s great. I love it,” Denniston said. “The kids are great and I have a ton of fun.”As Denniston knows, life takes us in many unforeseen directions. Denniston now has many reasons to celebrate — as he celebrates simply being alive each and every day.With each celebration, Denniston still carries around a very contagious positive outlook on life.”It’s hard to have a bad attitude when people are constantly supporting me,” he said. “I try to block out all the negative things and only focus on the positive things.”As long as Denniston maintains such a joy for living, one day his hard work and dedication may pay off.”I just want to be able to walk again,” he said. And one day, we may all get the fortunate opportunity to see it. You can follow Denniston’s progress at www.davedenniston.com. Questions about this story can be directed to Shannon at email@example.com.
Trevor Denton | Daily TrojanA year ago, the hapless Rams finished 4-12 in their first season back in Los Angeles. Worse than their record, the team was downright dreadful to watch. Under then-head coach Jeff Fisher, rookie quarterback Jared Goff threw more interceptions than touchdowns, while running back Todd Gurley was limited to a dismal 3.2 yards per carry, after ripping through the league as a rookie in 2015. The offense possessed plenty of talent, but the coaching staff had no idea how to use it. It was more frustrating than watching your grandparents try to use an iPad. But sometimes a coaching change can make all the difference. Before this season, 31-year-old Sean McVay was hired to re-energize the Rams’ dormant offense, and he somehow accomplished much more. The Rams led the league in scoring in 2017 (29.9 points per game), after finishing last in that category in 2016. Gurley ended his sophomore slump with a 2,093 total yard, MVP-worthy campaign, while Goff looked like a potential franchise quarterback. The Rams made leaps and bounds in 2017, but they’ve managed to get even better this off-season. After acquiring elite defensive backs Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib a couple of weeks ago, Los Angeles inked All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamakung Suh to a one-year, $14 million deal on Monday. Under venerated coordinator Wade Phillips, the Rams’ defense was already among the league’s best. Now it’s downright terrifying for opposing offenses. With Suh, Talib and Peters, the team has an elite defense to complement its historically prolific offense. Phillips will be able to place line up Suh alongside reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, creating one of the best defensive fronts in history (at least in theory). Suh and Donald have similar skill sets — they can both stuff the run and also terrorize passers from the interior (the duo would have combined for 15.5 sacks in 2017), and both still have plenty of gas in the tank (Suh is 31, Donald is a spry 26). Being able to field both future Hall of Famers in the prime of their careers is borderline unfair. One of Suh’s major considerations when choosing a team in free agency, was going somewhere he could avoid being double-teamed every play. Therefore, it makes sense why he took a pay cut to join the Rams. By playing next to a fellow human wrecking crew in Donald, Suh will have a better chance of avoiding L.A. traffic than ever seeing a double-team from an opposing offensive line (NFC West quarterbacks Jimmy Garapolo’s and Russell Wilson’s lives just got a lot more complicated). Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh joined the Los Angeles Rams on Monday after spending three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.The Suh signing will understandably draw the most attention, but don’t underestimate the impact of Talib and Peters. Los Angeles fielded a middle of the pack secondary in 2017, giving up 217.2 yards per game through the air (12th in the league) and 54 completions over 20 yards (seventh most in the league). Their best defensive back Trumaine Johnson was set to become a free agent this offseason. Instead of resigning Johnson to a mega-deal, they let him walk and still managed to upgrade their secondary in stunning fashion. Talib is a 10-year veteran with five-straight Pro Bowl appearances, while Peters brings unmatched ball-hawking, upside at the position. He’s snagged an incredible 19 interceptions since joining the league in 2015, to go along with six forced fumbles and five recoveries. With Talib’s experience, you know exactly what you’re getting — with Peters, 25, the sky is the limit. The Rams are already having the best off-season of any team, but they may not even be finished just yet. Reports indicate L.A. could be in the runningmix to acquire Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., one of the best young players in the league. If that trade does indeed happen, all bets are off. The Rams would be fielding one of the most talented teams in league history, a year removed from finishing 11-5 and winning the NFC West by a wide margin. On paper, the team will be stacked with or without Beckham Jr. The only major question will be if McVay can handle so many polarizing personalities on one roster. Talib, Peters, Suh and Beckham Jr. (if they land him) are all controversial figures for different reasons. Having all four in the same locker room could be magical or destructive — just don’t expect much of a middle ground. Either way, the Rams enter the 2018 season as one of the most talented and exciting teams in recent memory. Not bad for a franchise that terribly fumbled its debut season in Los Angeles just two years ago. Trevor Denton is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “T-Time,” runs Wednesdays.