INDIANAPOLIS (KMSP) - Just a few short years ago, it wasn't entirely clear if Sawyer Stevens would be able to walk after a horrific bus crash in took the life of his older brother and left him seriously injured.
Saturday evening, however, the junior at South Dakota threw 15 footballs through a blow-up Dr. Pepper can to win a life-changing $100,000 check from the company, putting Stevens one step closer to his dream of becoming a pediatric neuro-surgeon.
It's a remarkable turn of events for the 20-year-old, who practiced his form for weeks before the competition--form that endured some criticism on social media after the halftime event at this year's Big Ten Championship football game between Wisconsin and Ohio State.
"When there's 100,000 dollars on the line I ain't going to play around," he said. "Once I kind of stepped onto the field everything sunk in and I felt pretty grounded and I was ready to go."
It took years of therapy and plenty of hours in hospitals and clinics, however, to even get to the point where he could engage in athletic activity. It's a recovery he attributes to the amazing doctors and other medical professionals that have since inspired him to seek a medical career of his own.
"[They] helped motivate me to look forward toward the future and to get where I am today," he said. It's something that I'm always going to be thankful for."
Along with Stevens' friends and family, the entire community of Cottonwood celebrated his win, a rare silver lining to a story years in the making. It was a tragic day when a woman slammed into a school bus there, killing four children and injuring several more. She was later sentenced to more than a decade in prison.
Now, Sawyer says his brother would be proud of what he's accomplished. The rest of his hometown certainly is.
"I'd like to think he would have definitely been there," he said. "Or at least at home watching to support me."