ST. LOUIS -- McCluer football coach Todd Shelton has been an inspiration to many in the St. Louis area for years now.
“I always wanted to give back to kids in the Berkeley community," Shelton said. "I came from it, I'm a product from it."
After high school, he played football at Missouri Western State University. Once his playing days were over, he decided he wanted to change lives, so he reached out to someone who changed his -- his former coach, Howard Brown.
"I first start coaching, he was the first guy that I got an opportunity to coach," Brown said. "he was the first kid that believed in me."
Since then the two have been inseparable, helping kids break barriers they never thought they could.
“Just to have them come back to the community and help out, that's great," McCluer defensive lineman Torre McMiller said.
“I've seen kids turn a leaf and go from 2.5's to 4.0's, get full-ride scholarships and make their dreams come true, and that was something that I always wanted to see," Shelton said.
But in February of 2019, it was coach Shelton’s dreams that were put to the test. He came face to face with the unimaginable. He and his fiance became innocent victims of a shooting, leaving Shelton paralyzed and away from his team for the first time in years.
"You know it's been tough," Shelton said.
But through those tough times, not once did Shelton’s morals change.
"When I got an opportunity to go out there and see him and check on him and things like that, he had the same energy..." Brown said. "He was like 'what's up, coach? What we working on?'"
The once so independent man, always taking charge, is now leaning on his home team to lead the way.
"Both of my parents most recently retired," Shelton said. "They've been such a beacon of light for me and motivation for me and I know it was a lot for them, but I couldn't ask for better parents."
The two drained their retirement fund and purchased a home to accommodate Shelton to make his everyday tasks a bit easier, but by doing that, it meant sacrificing distance from the kids he loves.
"What has to happen right now is my mom has to travel pretty much an hour and a half to go get a van to pick up and bring back to the house," Shelton said. "So you know, that's a lot of gas mileage, that's a lot of time and that's a lot of money."
But Shelton proves physicality in the sense of presence isn't always important. Even though his steps on the field are missed, Shelton will always be there in spirit.
"It's like he never left for real, it's like he's always been there, still one of our coaches," McMiller said. "I still respect him, I love that man."
And whether he's in a wheelchair, a bed or on the sidelines, this coach, son and unbelievable man continues to be an inspiration to his team, family and anyone who hears his story.
"One word to sum it up is strength, and stay with it," Shelton said. "Persevere no matter what, keep your head up. Time after time, life knocks us down. but no matter what, you get up, you stand up and you fight and you be strong. You be Shelton strong."
Shelton said he one day hopes to return to the sidelines on a regular basis, but the cost of renting a van is just too expensive. That's why his family has several fundraisers set up to help with medical expenses and to get their own fan.
The next fundraiser coming up will be the Team Coach Todd 5K Run/Walk at McCluer High School on November 16th. You can click here to register.
You can also donate to his GoFundMe.