Just more than a year ago, Michael Lois jumped off a trampoline and into a pool that was only 4 feet deep.
Everything that you think would happen happened.
On Sept. 16, 2018, Lois missed the floaty and broke three vertebrae in his spine. He remembered being unable to move his arms or legs after the impact. A friend helped pull the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Lois from the pool.
Now, Lois has two rods in the back of his neck, between the c5 and c7 vertebrae. He also has a plate through the front. This was three surgeries for the Elkhorn, Wis., native. Lois needed to wear a halo to reset his spine and then the rods and the plates.
Lois also has a football scholarship to the University of Iowa. Yes, he still does.
Just two weeks before the accident, Lois committed to play football for the Hawkeyes. The Iowa staff took the news of the injury with aplomb and have been extremely supportive of Lois and his family.
“It’s definitely a blessing they stuck with me after the neck thing,” Lois said. “I’m super thankful and appreciative and I want to see where this takes me. I couldn’t have picked a better school to commit to.”
Lois’ football career still is very much up in the air.
He won’t be one of the Hawkeyes’ 21 signees Wednesday. He will sign his letter of intent during the February signing period with the intent of playing football for the Hawkeyes at some point.
Lois still has to meet with UI sports medicine and team physicians.
“I don’t even know what’s going to happen,” Lois said. “I have to meet with them, but I’m just excited to be down there and be blessed with this opportunity to be with the team no matter what I do.”
2019 has been a year of clearances for Lois.
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This spring, he was cleared to lift weights, and not just weights, but the heavy lifting that makes Big Ten football defensive linemen. He’s still not doing squats, he doesn’t want to take that chance. He hasn’t been cleared for football contact.
He could’ve played hoops for Elkhorn High School. He will play baseball. He was cleared for that this spring and that is part of the reason why he elected not to enroll early.
If regret and sorrow are in there, Lois doesn’t let them out.
“I wouldn’t say it was the easiest thing, but it wasn’t too hard for me,” Lois said. “I didn’t really care what other people thought, I just wanted to get better and worry about myself. I didn’t have time to worry about what other people thought. I had enough problems going on rather than worrying about what other people thought.
“I wasn’t going to let that bother me.”
Lois (pronounced Loyce) acknowledged that this was probably toughest on his parents, Hayley and Matt.
“My parents have finally started to settle down and relax. They know everything is going to be OK,” Lois said. “They definitely had it the hardest of anyone out of all of this. I was going to be OK and knew I’d have to work hard to get through it.”
For Lois to get back the field, he literally has to grow a spine. OK, it’s neck vertebrae technically, but this is where Lois is.
Doctors have told him they want him to have a full year of healing where they performed the spinal fusion surgery before there’s talk about being cleared for contact.
The monthly visits to the doctor have been charting the bone growth in his neck. In September, everyone will know more.
You know it’s an uncertain situation when Lois talks about what position he might play.
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“Possibly talked about a position change to a safer position, I don’t know quite yet,” Lois said. “We’ll know more after the doctors clear and say ‘Maybe this position or somewhere else.’
“No matter what they do, if I can’t play, I’ll just try to be a good asset to the team and help them out any way I can.”
Does Lois feel good about his chances of playing again?
For role models there, Lois, if he remains a D-lineman for the Hawkeyes, won’t have to look far. D-line coach Kelvin Bell had his playing days end before his sophomore year at Iowa in 2001. Staff analyst Martin Hopkins also was recruited as a D-lineman at Iowa and also had his career end early due to injury.
The ending has yet to be written. The desire is there and, who knows, Lois could be doing back squats at some point soon.
“I know I want to, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” Lois said. “I’m not Dr. Lois, but I feel like I could put on the pads again and get ready to rumble.”
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