Injured Bearkat, Eric Fieilo, shows mental toughness
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 00:10
“They thought I was paralyzed too. The only thing I could move was my head.”
Eric Fieilo lay numb and lifeless at Bowers Stadium as trainers and his wife Mariko rushed the field to stabilize the injured Bearkat.
“I really thought I was paralyzed when I was on the floor,” Fieilo said. “[The trainers] thought I was paralyzed too. The only thing I could do was move my head.”
After proving to be a strong defensive force in 2011 for the Sam Houston State University football squad during playoffs, linebacker Eric Fieilo’s senior season abruptly ended in the season opener against the University of Incarnate Word with one bad tackle.
“The play was a pass play and I was coming in from the back to make the tackle,” the injured linebacker said. “As I was coming in from the back I just dove with my head down and got hit on top of my head and just lost feeling from my neck down.”
Fieilo’s wife was one of the first on the turf when the play stopped. The stadium was silent as the fear her husband was dead hushed the crowd and the sidelines.
“I remember I could hear a pin drop and all I could hear was my heart beating,” Mariko Fieilo said. “I wasn’t even sure he was alive.” Once the linebacker was able to respond, her distress dissipated as her husband spoke. “I figured he might be paralyzed,” she said. “All I need[ed] was his voice.”
Eric Fieilo was rushed to Huntsville Memorial Hospital during the game where he underwent an MRI when doctors concluded he suffered a herniated disk between the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck, ending his season.
Four weeks after the season opener, Eric Fieilo is anxious to put the helmet back on, but is limited to minimum use of his neck until January.
“I just walk around,” Eric Fieilo said. “I just make sure I’m moving my head around and using it by doing a stretch here and a stretch there for my neck. I can’t lift, I can’t run, I can’t do any kind of activity until January.”
Although the senior Bearkat is restricted to participate during practice, he continues to retain the role as a mentor and leader within the SHSU defense.
“I’m just trying to be a positive role model to the younger guys coming up as well as everyone else on the team,” Eric Fieilo said. “I’m trying everything that I can do by calling out the signals to the defense, coaching up the second strings and even the starters if I see any little thing that is wrong.”
Outside of the gridiron, the senior linebacker juggles married life, work and his studies.
Eric and Mariko Fieilo have been married for two years as high school sweethearts from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. While Eric’s schedule is congested with football, working for the University Police Department, and school, Mariko is a stay at home mother with their 19-month old daughter Alisi.
“[Alisi] is always there for me,” Mariko Fieilo said. “Even though she doesn’t know what I’m saying to her she laughs sometimes when I talk to her. We have a really close mommy, daughter relationship.”
Together, Mariko and Alisi Fieilo, also known as Kat after the Bearkats, attend each home game to watch Eric on the field.
“She loves [the games],” Mariko Fieilo said. “She goes wild.”
Being the wife of a college football player, Mariko’s time with her husband is limited.
“It took some time for me to adapt to his new busy schedule with football, school, and also work. But I asked him to promise me to give me just 15 minutes before we go to sleep,” Mariko Fieilo said. “As long as I have my 15-minutes every day I’m good.”
“I want to spend as much time as I can with my wife,” Eric Fieilo said. “I just want to have alone time with just us two with no school, no football, and no work. Being a college student and working and playing football just takes up my whole schedule. There’s very little time that I get to spend with my wife.”