Anderson University alumnus Tyler Daniels BA '09 was told at an early age that walking would not be part of his future. At birth, Daniels was diagnosed with spina bifida, a congenital defect in which the spinal cord branches out from the spinal column. Spina bifida usually results in neurological impairment, but Daniels had a higher power on his side.
“The doctors told me that the nerve endings in my left leg didn’t work and my right nerve endings would only work half as well as a healthy leg,” said Daniels. Medically, he shouldn’t be walking at all nor should he feel either of his legs, but he can feel them both. “I started walking right around the same age as every other healthy child does, and the doctors said it’s because of a higher power that I’m able walk.”
Daniels has undergone seven surgeries, six related to his spina bifida. “I had my first surgery at five hours old,” he said. Daniels underwent two later procedures, once in second grade and once in high school, to correct tethered spinal cords caused by spina bifida.
“When I was born, the doctors could take one of my feet and wrap it around to touch my calf; I had a bone missing,” said Daniels. “My parents prayed over me and when I woke the next day, the bone was there. It was a miracle from above. I’m fortunate to have parents who are strong in faith and don’t take the power of prayer for granted.”
Daniels wasn’t able to play contact sports in high school, so he opted for baseball and golf. He lettered all four years in golf while attending AU, and now serves as associate head coach for women’s golf and assistant coach for men’s golf.
Professor of Kinesiology and Men’s Golf Head Coach Paul Gray has known Daniels for eight years and works alongside him now. “Daniels has a positive outlook on everything he does,” said Gray. “Not only does he show strong work ethic and dedication, but he’s always willing to help others and provide a spiritual commitment to whatever he’s doing.” Even though golf is an individual sport, Daniels is interested in the team. He’s motivated to do his best and stays focused through difficult times. “Most opponents or others never knew of his spina bifida, and he never used that as an excuse at any time,” said Gray.
“Coach Daniels believes in us more than we do ourselves sometimes,” said junior Courtney Erickson, a member of the women's team. “He teaches us to uplift each other and to play with integrity. Sometimes he brings us all a verse on a small piece of paper to carry with us on the golf course.”
Daniels had yearly checkups until his senior year of high school, but now goes in about every other year. There haven’t been any problems since he was younger, and he’s been successful in sports and his academic career. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from AU in 2009 and is pursuing his Master of Business Administration at the Anderson University Flagship Center.
— Laura Overman is a senior from Anderson, Ind., majoring in communication arts. Overman is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.