ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Charles Franklin said he sees a little extra grit in his boy’s eyes.

Though it likely cost him the ability to walk and feel sensations below his waist for the rest of his life, the veteran carpenter is proud of the steps towards full-fledged manhood that his son Dylan, 13, took in his three games playing tackle football through the Alpharetta Parks and Recreation program.

“I’d like to think there was a moment, maybe a millisecond before a handful of his bones in his spinal cord were dislocated, where he felt like he could overcome anything life throws at him,” Franklin said.

Dylan played two seasons on the defensive line in flag football before Charles convinced his wife, Peggy, that tackle football will instill the toughness that was lacking through Dylan’s passion of drawing.

“I played Pop Warner football, got my ass kicked by kids bigger than me, and I’ll never forget the life lessons that taught,” said Charles Franklin, who went on to be a reserve cornerback on the 1999 Alpharetta High School varsity football team. “It made me the man I am today.”

Dylan Franklin was playing in the secondary – just like his father’s days with the Muskrats – when he went in head-first for a tackle and drove the top of his head into an opponent, cracking underdeveloped sections of his vertebrae that will never fully recover.

Doctors were encouraged with Dylan’s attitude after eight hours of emergency surgery to attempt to stabilize the inside of his ravaged neck.

“He’s such a tough kid,” Charles Franklin said. “I credit his time on the old gridiron for building that fighting spirit.”

(This piece was published on Robot Butt.)