It was eight years ago when Tyler Schilhabel's spinal cord was severely injured, leaving the then-starting quarterback at Independence paralyzed.
Now, Schilhabel will be back on the sidelines for the Falcons beginning this fall as the next head coach of the Independence football program.
“As soon as I heard there was a vacancy for the head job I reached out to (Independence athletic director) Derek LaRosa and asked him what the process was to apply for the job,” Schilhabel said.
A few days later Schilhabel drove to Bakersfield from Salt Lake City, where he has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Utah, and interviewed. On Thursday, LaRosa announced that Schilhabel was the Falcons’ new coach.
“I am very excited to have Tyler coming back to our Independence family," LaRosa said in an email announcement. "He is a supreme role model and positive example for our student-athletes and displays the leadership qualities, positive attitude and passion for football that we are looking for at Independence High School."
Schilhabel was Independence’s starting quarterback as a junior when he was paralyzed from the chest down from an off-road vehicle accident at Oceano Dunes in September 2010.
Despite the injury, he never lost his passion for football or his school.
“I always had strong ties to Independence from being a player and the way the administration and faculty treated me after my accident and helped me be successful,” Schilhabel said.
That passion for football, and being involved in the game, is what drives Schilhabel more than anything else.
“I had a quick realization my first time without football, my first year of college at Boise State, that I was miserable,” Schilhabel said. “I knew I didn’t want to be away from the game and made a conscious effort to stay involved.”
Schilhabel went on to get his degree from Utah Valley — in political science with an emphasis on American government — and found himself back on the sidelines for the Falcons.
“When I was doing an internship for Congressman McCarthy (2015) I was an assistant coach for quarterbacks and after I graduated (2016) I did the same thing.”
Then it was off to the University of Utah where he took a position as a recruiting assistant for the Utes, which morphed into being special teams coach.
“The last year and half was all special teams work,” Schilhabel said. “Meeting, diagrams, films, scouting reports for the opponents, special team drills …”
But now it’s all about high school football and being the head man.
“I’ll be heading back to Bakersfield on Monday, meeting with the team on Tuesday afternoon and we’ll hit the ground running June 4 for summer practices,” he said.