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Car accident doesn't stop man from reaching his dreams

HERRIMAN — Life can change in an instant.

No one knows that better than Alec McMorris, a Herriman man who was the star of his high school football team one day and then just a few years later became a man struggling to survive.

McMorris was 21 years old, a graduate of West Jordan High School.

“Not huge in size, but huge in his abilities and his heart,” said Ilene Kellogg, McMorris' grandmother. “He loved (football). I’ve never known anyone as dedicated to setting his goals and achieving them.”

On a cold October morning in 2013, McMorris stopped to help his cousin who was driving in front of him in Parleys Canyon and hit an icy patch.

"As we reached the bridge, I watched him slam into it,” McMorris said. “I got out just thinking that he needed a ride to work, and then I woke up four days later.”

McMorris went to call for help and a car smashed into him, crushing his right leg so badly that doctors said it looked like an improvised explosive device had hit it. He was fighting for his life. Most of it was a blur, with flashes of lucidity.

“I remember waking up in the median,” McMorris said. “It threw me 30 feet into the median. I remember the other guys holding me down while a nurse, who had stopped (to help), was putting a tourniquet on my leg.”

It started to snow as they loaded him in the ambulance, and he remembers the bouncy ride.

“When we first got the call, it was a really horrid call and we didn’t know if he was alive or not,” said Kellogg. “There was a tear in his aorta, so they had to fix that. That was very scary and really a miracle that he didn’t bleed out.”

Doctors at University Hospital stabilized him. He underwent 21 surgeries in 13 days, Kellogg said.

They performed multiple surgeries to try to save his leg. In one, doctors took muscles from his abdomen and grafted them onto his leg. But the leg became infected, and doctors ultimately had to amputate it.

McMorris’ family said he didn’t feel sorry for himself — not for one minute.

“I’ve always kind of looked at it as a challenge," he said. "It’s just another thing I get the opportunity to do."

Recovery was a road full of long days in rehab.

"All it has done is given me more ambition and more goals to keep moving forward," he said. "I can still do everything anyone else can do, I just have to do it a different way."

He is back doing pretty much everything he did before, even wakeboarding. Loved ones say he is the embodiment of hope.

“There’s always somebody worse,” McMorris said. “There’s always somebody in a worse situation. I would go to therapy for months and see people who controlled their wheelchairs with their mouths, and I would get in my truck and drive away.”

He said the accident renewed his faith and he now finds joy in helping others.

His dreams are back on track, too. He has been hired to coach football at Riverton High School, and he often speaks to school groups about his experience.

If he could go back, would he rewrite his story?

“No, if I could do it all over again, I would," he said. "I wouldn’t change anything.”

Email: hsimonsen@deseretnews.com