Normally, a stat sheet from the University of Vermont men’s basketball team might not make a ton of noise in the sports world. But a stat sheet that says Josh Speidel scored two points in a college basketball game speaks volumes on what sports can do.
Five years ago, three-star recruit Josh Speidel was in a coma, the result of a devastating car accident that nearly took his life. It wasn’t known if he’d ever talk or walk again. His parents prepared for a life that no parent should ever have to think about. But Speidel proved to everyone that his story wasn’t over. It was only just beginning.
Josh Speidel was a star in high school before the accident
Josh Speidel was a big deal in high school. A standout at Columbus High School in Columbus, Indiana, he became the school’s all-time leading scorer, averaging more than 28 points per game. He had more than a dozen offers to play Division I basketball and just before his senior year, he committed to the University of Vermont.
On Super Bowl Sunday in 2015, Speidel was involved in a car accident. When his parents, David and Lisa, reached the hospital, they were told that their son had nearly been killed and was in a coma. Josh had severe brain damage and David and Lisa were told to prepare for the high possibility that their son would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, requiring 24-hour care. They were told their son would never again read above a fourth-grade level. Josh remained in a coma for five weeks.
On the Glasgow coma scale, a tool used to track the severity of brain injuries, anything below an eight is considered severe. On the night of his accident, Josh was a four.
Vermont honored his scholarship
While Josh was still in the hospital in Indianapolis, Vermont head coach John Becker visited the family. He told them that no matter what happened, the school would be honoring the scholarship that had been set aside for Speidel.
On March 3, 2015, Speidel sat up for the first time following his accident and hugged his mother. Exactly five years later, Lisa Speidel would watch her son score two points in a college basketball game.
Josh Speidel scores his first two points in college basketball
A year and a half after his accident, Josh Speidel began life at Vermont in August 2016. In addition to taking classes, he would rehab with trainers on campus but was never cleared for contact or practice with the team. In the past few years, Speidel cheered on his Catamount teammates as they went to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. On Tuesday night, the tables turned as his teammates, along with his opponents, parents, and an amazing crowd cheered him.
Wearing No. 32 on Senior Night, Speidel registered the first two points of his college career in an 85-62 win over Albany. It was an incredibly emotional moment in Burlington, one that Josh Speidel will never forget.
“I did it, I’m a college basketball player. I scored in a college basketball game. You can’t take that away from me. I’m just so forever grateful.”Josh Speidel
Following his basket, Speidel embraced his teammates, his opponents, opposing head coach Will Brown, who said he’s never been happier about seeing an opposing player score, and, of course, Vermont coach John Becker. Lisa Speidel spoke about how incredibly proud she is of her son.
“When we walked into the gym, it felt like everything we’d imagined it would feel like,” she said. “We’re so proud of Josh, just hanging in there and working as hard as he has. He looked as good as I thought that he would in his uniform.”Lisa Speidel
Vermont is once again the top seed heading into the America East Conference Tournament. The Catamounts went 14-2 in conference play and have a 24-7 overall record. Again on pace to make the NCAA Tournament, Josh Speidel will continue to root on his teammates, just as so many have rooted for him over the last five years.
As for that notion that he’d never again read above a fourth-grade level? Josh Speidel will graduate from Vermont’s College of Education this May with a 3.4 GPA.