At University High School, a familiar motto reminds students, “Once a Trojan, Always a Trojan.”
That idea is being lived out by University’s boys soccer team, which has reached out to help a former player. On Christmas Eve 2017, Juan Rivera — a 2016 University High graduate and four-year soccer letterman — was involved in a one-car accident near Interstate 35 and Valley Mills Drive. Rivera’s car rolled down a hill and he was ejected through the windshield of the vehicle.
As a result of the accident, Rivera was paralyzed from the neck down. Since that day, he has been receiving treatment at Baylor Scott and White Hillcrest Medical Center.
“(Doctors) are getting ready to move him to Dallas,” said Mike Chapman, University’s longtime head soccer coach. “The good news is that they say it’s a nerve issue, and nerves can regenerate. But will they regenerate two weeks from now or 20 years from now, they just don’t know.”
To help offset the Rivera family’s medical bills, the Trojan soccer team will hold a fundraiser at Bubba’s 33 Restaurant in Waco on Friday. From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the restaurant will donate 10 percent of revenue accumulated from customers who mention Rivera’s name.
“Juan’s mom quit her job to be with him,” Chapman said. “They were a two-income family, but living paycheck to paycheck. Both Juan’s brother, who plays for us, and his sister got part-time jobs. We’re just trying to help out any way we can.”
University has an open date Friday, so Chapman and other team members plan to go to Bubba’s after school to help get the word out to customers about the fundraiser.
Chapman said that the Trojan players have visited Rivera in the hospital. The coach swings by for a 20 to 30-minute visit every morning.
“He’s in good spirits,” Chapman said. “He called me today. He’s still got a tube in his throat, but they’ve hooked up a device with a speaker and he was able to call me on his mom’s phone and talk to me. He said, ‘Coach, I’m going to walk again.’ I said, ‘I know you are, Juan.’
“There’s been some tough days, too. He’s had anxiety about walking again. … But he’s doing about as good as he could be doing.”