Being a standout football player and snowboarding enthusiast was something that came easy to 16-year-old Tanner Boatwright.
He had always been quick on his feet and his athletic ability was years ahead of his age. His football future was heading in the direction of "the sky's the limit" after being selected to the West Virginia All-State team as a sophomore.
But just as everything seemed to be going his way, Boatwright and his family could not have been prepared for what happened to the speedy youngster just weeks after football season ended.
During Thanksgiving break, Boatwright did what most kids in West Virginia do during the festive week - go hunting.
But instead of harvesting a big buck and having many memorable deer camp stories to reminisce about, Boatwright's excursion into the woods was one he would love to forget. His world was turned upside down when he was accidently shot in the leg.
The injury was so bad that the youngster had something taken from him that he was sure he'd have the rest of his life - his right leg.
Boatwright was immediately flown to a Pittsburgh hospital where he spent five grueling hours in surgery. Once he awoke, his parents, Roger and Susie, had to do the hardest thing they had ever done in their lives - tell their son he had lost his leg.
Although upset and shocked, Boatwright took the news as best he could. He had a simple answer for what had happened, and the first words out of his mouth were, "I guess God has other plans for me."
Boatwright spent the next week recovering in Pittsburgh and received overwhelming support, not only from his family, but the entire Elkins community.
Although he acknowledged and appreciated how much everyone cared, the only thing on his mind was how to get back to doing the things he did before the injury.
"As soon as I realized I lost my leg, I knew what I was going to do," he said. "I started talking to my family about getting a prosthetic leg. There was no way I was going to not walk with two legs again."
After researching all the options, Boatwright and his family found what they were looking for in the Genium Bionic Prosthetic System.
The GBPS is a state-of-the-art microprocessor-controlled leg that utilizes a complex sensory system to mimic natural leg movement. Anyone who grew up in the 1970s would liken it to something Steve Austin "The Six Million Dollar Man" had put on his body after crashing in his space craft.
Boatwright learned it was going to take some time to get his new leg, so he turned his attention to coping with what life was going to be like when he returned home.
He knew it was going to be tough getting around and doing everyday things on crutches. Plus he was a little wary of how everyone would treat him after his accident.
During his first four weeks back, Boatwright was schooled at home by Elkins football coach Greg Hott. He also had nurses on hand to help out and monitor his condition.
After four weeks, Boatwright had enough of the home life and called Hott to make arrangements for going back to school.
"I was swarmed by people my first day back at school," he said. "It was kind of strange because people would talk to me, but they really wouldn't know what to say until I initiated the conversation."
The always sociable Boatwright grew tired of his friends being afraid to talk about his leg and what had happened. So while shopping one day at Walmart, he found an opportunity to break the ice.
"Me and some friends were walking out of the store and I looked down and yelled really loud 'where did my leg go'" he explained with a laugh. "After that they saw I could have fun with it and they could, too. I didn't want them to treat me any different or be afraid to ask me any questions."
While waiting to get his prosthetic leg, Boatwright began working to prepare himself for the day it arrived. He relentlessly worked out in the weight room three days a week and spent an additional three days a week in physical therapy.
"I really couldn't do anything else, so working out in the weight room was something I looked forward to doing," he said. "It was easy motivation knowing that it was going to help me walk again. I knew I was going to walk again and walk perfect."
Boatwright's father, Roger, said that Tanner had to work hard in order to prepare himself for his new leg.
"His hip flexor muscle had to be strong for when they inserted his new leg," he said. "If it wasn't, he wouldn't have been able to walk when he got it."
After working relentlessly and hobbling around school and home for five months on crutches, the day finally came that Boatwright had been anxiously awaiting for.
"I was ready to go when they called and told me it was in," he said. "I really was scared I wouldn't get it, because like only 100 people in the United State have the leg I was getting."
Boatwright's new leg was shipped to the Hanger Clinic in Morgantown, where they initially taught him everything he needed to know about operating the device.
"They showed me everything from start to finish on how to work it," he said. "When I put it on and started walking it was wild. It was an amazing feeling to get up and be able to walk again - it was crazy."
At first, Boatwright had to wear the leg in intervals so that his body could get used to the new device and the wear and tear on his hip flexor muscle.
"It was definitely nice to see him up and around," his father said. "It was a great feeling after seeing him on crutches for so long. For him to be able to do things for himself was good for him. He was tired of everyone waiting on him."
A few weeks later, Boatwright went to another Hanger Clinic in Bridgeport for adjustments on his leg. That's when he received an invitation that would give him the one thing that he still desired - the ability to run.
While at the clinic, Boatwright learned that Kevin Carroll, vice president of Prosthetics for Hanger, wanted to meet him. Carroll travels around the world providing care for disabled athletes. He is also the real-life person who developed the tail for the dolphin in the movie "Dolphin Tale." Morgan Freeman plays Carroll in the film.
The two sides set up an appointment the following week and Carroll flew into Bridgeport to meet with Boatwright.
"He wanted to meet with us because he heard that Tanner had a lot of athletic goals," his father explained. "He heard that Tanner wanted to be as active as he was before the accident."
Tanner says the meeting led to the biggest opportunity he had since the injury.
"He asked me if he could sponsor me at the Endeavor Games," he said. "Kevin said he would pay for everything, all I had to do was go to Oklahoma and compete."
The Endeavor Games, which were conducted at the University of Central Oklahoma, is a nationally recognized competition that allows all athletes with physical disabilities to participate in multi-sport events.
So Boatwright and his father headed west on June 7, not real sure of what to expect. But once they did land in Oklahoma, they quickly learned that there wasn't going to be much time for play - it was all business.
"We really didn't know what to expect, because Tanner hadn't attempted to run yet at all," Roger said. "The day we landed in Oklahoma, was the first time he tried to run. I was anxious to see him do it, but we didn't anticipate that only after two hours there, he would be trying to do it."
Boatwright was fitted with a specially made prosthetic leg that is designed for running and athletic competition. He then got to attempt the one thing he had been dreaming about since day one, running.
"He did surprisingly well," his father said. "It was a pretty emotional moment for both of us when he started running. It was a very special moment."
After two-hour training sessions with Hanger Clinical Advisor Randy Richardson for the next four days, it was time for Boatwright to take the next step in doing what he loves to do - compete.
"It was crazy, here I was getting ready to go up against all of theses athletes after being without a leg and being on crutches for months," he said "I couldn't believe it was happening. It was definitely a special time."
Not sure how he would do, Boatwright's competitive nature took over when the games began and he did what he always strived to do - win. And it wasn't just once, he brought home four gold medals from the games, winning the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 25-meter swim and 50-meter swim.
"I didn't think I would do as well as I did," he said. "It was just an incredible feeling to compete again in something. It was real nice to win, too."
Boatwright plans to continue to compete in several different sports and his biggest goal at this time is to get ready for next year's Paraplegic Olympic Winter Games, where he would like to compete in snowboarding.
A possible return to the football field is also not out of the question for Boatwright.
"I'm not sure right now if I'm going to try to do football this season or not," he said. "My biggest thing is that I want to be better than I was. If I wasn't, it would break my heart. But it's still a possibility and as August gets closer, I will make my decision."
Boatwright said he hopes that his story of fighting back and not letting anything stop you from doing what you want, not matter the circumstances, can be an inspiration to others.
"I hope my story can help someone else that thinks they can't do something because of a disability," he said. "You can do anything you want to do if you have enough will and determination to do it."
Boatwright's father said that if it were not for the community's support, none of Tanner's accomplishments would have been possible.
"People we didn't even know came to us and wanted to help, it was amazing" he said. "All the support really helped us stay positive and get through a really tought time. And the people from Hanger out in Oklahoma were fantastic, they really deserve a lot of credit for getting Tanner were he is today. Tanner and my entire family really appreciate everything everyone did."