Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Former DeSoto football player Corey Borner still counts his blessings four years after being paralyzed
DESOTO — Underneath a collection of Nike T-shirts and sports jerseys hanging in the closet, Corey Borner’s tennis shoes are stacked neatly in boxes. They’re red, black, gray, purple and pretty much any color you could imagine for a shoe.
“Nike Air Force 1,” Borner said. “That’s all I wear.”
Any addition to the shoe collection is pretty exciting. But not as exciting as what Borner did with one of the shoes last month. Sitting up on his bed, he was able to maneuver his hand to the correct position to slide on one of his beloved sneakers.
“Right after that,” Borner said, “we had to get a photo.”
And then he sent it out on Twitter. Borner’s 6,000 followers saw a step forward in what the former DeSoto defensive back, who was paralyzed during a spring football practice four years ago, hopes is a path toward taking his own steps.
“Friends ask me all the time, ‘Corey, when are you going to walk again?’” said Borner, who is now 20. “I wish I could walk the next day, but I can’t just snap my fingers and walk again. It’s all in God’s hands.”
Four years later
Every May 6, the anniversary of the day when Borner was paralyzed while making a tackle, can be emotional. As the fourth anniversary approached, Corey’s mother tried not to bring it up.
But then he mentioned it.
“Mom, you know what tomorrow is?”
It wasn’t a big surprise that Corey wanted to talk about it. The youngest son of Charlotte and Michael Borner, the little brother of Brandon (30) and Daunte (24), is anything but shy. When Borner was only 8 years old, he would dance and rap at remote broadcasts for KKDA-FM (104.5).
“Lil’ Corey” called into K-104 so much that the deejays started putting him on the air.
Borner always had something to talk about back then. He still does, whether it’s about God, sports, music, his newest Twitter followers, the Golden Chick restaurant that gives him free food or his barber, Booker, who won’t take his money.
He’s also at ease discussing his long, challenging rehabilitation.
The injury in 2009 left Borner unable to move his lower body, and although he could lift his arms, he couldn’t grasp objects. Four years later, Borner still cannot grasp objects, but his hands are stronger. He also has enough strength in his arms to use a manual wheelchair almost exclusively.
Borner does most of his physical therapy at home, doing sets of 15 or 20 arm raises and curls with five- and eight-pound weights strapped to his forearms. Borner can sit up with more stability than a year ago, and he said he’s gaining more feeling in his chest.
“Getting stronger,” Borner said. “You know, step by step. I can’t rush nothing.”
On the fourth anniversary of the injury, Borner’s torrent of Twitter messages included “I WILL WALK AGAIN.” Walking remains the ultimate goal, but Borner has other goals, too. Earning a college degree is one of them.
Borner started taking classes at Cedar Valley College after he graduated from DeSoto in 2011. His three courses last semester included a speech class in which he wrote and presented arguments about the value of television news and the controversial fashion trend of sagging pants.
Borner plans to transfer the credits to UNT and earn a communications degree. He would like to be a sports talk-show host, but any kind of on-air job would be a great start.
“If things go well, I think he might end up working for K-104,” Michael Borner said.
Corey Borner is still well-known at the station, and last month, K-104 personalities Lady Jade and Cat Daddy visited him at home. Borner has become a bit of a celebrity himself, after giving speeches to students at several elementary and middle schools in Dallas and DeSoto. He has also traveled to Waxahachie to talk to football players at Life Secondary School.
Borner’s message to the students, delivered with his slight Texas drawl, is usually the same. Work hard. Stay focused. Find a way.
“I tell them to keep their heads up and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” Borner said. “Follow your dreams and goals and whatever you want to accomplish in life. Keep maintaining.”
Highs and lows
Borner’s positivity radiates in the dozens of tweets he sends out each day from @LILCOREY_TRILL. With his phone on his lap, he has enough use of his hands to tap away messages such as “another day, another opportunity” and “be blessed that you are alive.”
The positivity and encouraging words are uplifting to LaRhonda Moore, who has been dating Borner for nearly nine months. Moore, who graduated from DeSoto in 2010 and is also taking classes at Cedar Valley, said Borner knows how to entertain people and keep them laughing.
But sometimes the struggle gets to him.
“He has his good days and his bad days,” Moore said. “When he has a bad day, I flip the script on him. I tell him you’ve got to find a way. Come on now, don’t give up on me.”
Borner isn’t giving up. He talks about how he’s lucky to have a great family that includes his Aunt Helen, who lives in the Borner home and helps take care of him. He talks about the people who have showed support for him, including former Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens and Texas football coach Mack Brown, who has given him two Longhorns watches and a 2010 Big 12 Championship ring with “Borner” engraved on it.
And Borner talks a lot about God. He talks to God every day, he said, and thanks him for all the blessings in his life. He also asks when the day will come when he can go into his closet, slip on a slick pair of Air Force 1 shoes and walk again.
“I ask Him, ‘When will it be my time?’” Borner said. “I can’t rush nothing. If it’s 15 years until I walk again, then it’s 15 years. If it’s next week, then it’s next week. I’m just being patient and waiting on a blessing.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon