Two years ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, WBIR 10News had the opportunity to highlight some of the most inspiring people in all of East Tennessee. We showed you five individuals’ straight from the heart stories and let you be the judge.
The winner's story got to shine in a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl. You chose to share DJ Vanderwerf's story.
At the time, he was just 17 years old and the starting quarterback of Sweetwater High School's Football team. Vanderwerf played with a prosthetic leg, but never let it get in his way.
Two years later, Vanderwerf is still inspiring those around him.
"I just grew up like a normal kid. I was told to never say I can't," Vanderwerf said.
His story on Super Bowl Sunday impacted thousands.
“We were really surprised,” DJ’s parents Dan and Tamara said. The Vanderwerfs had no idea that night that DJ’s story would air.
"It was humbling to see myself on T.V.” DJ said.
After it aired, the messages, calls, texts kept coming in.
"We came home one evening and there was a message from a man that lives here in Sweetwater. He's a disabled veteran," Tamara said.
The veteran was so moved by DJ’s story he had to reach out.
"After DJ had hung up with him, DJ was very emotional. It just makes me very proud that someone was touched by DJ's story and it made a positive impact on their life," she said.
DJ never got to meet the veteran, but he was told the man came to one of his games watch him play.
"What I am going through is nothing compared to what he's done. That's what gets me," DJ said.
Each day, DJ keeps inspiring. Since the ad aired, he graduated high school. His goal is to become a prosthetist to help people like him. Now he's studying exercise sciences and walked on to ETSU's football team as a freshman.
"It's definitely a dream come true," he said.