COLMESNEIL, TX- Anyone fortunate enough to know Quentin Cates refers to him as Coach.
Cates currently serves as the Colmesneil girls head basketball coach where he said he's lucky to have lived out 30 years in his career.
Five years ago, his coaching journey could have easily ended. Cates was in a severe car crash that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
“It's very emotional because it was the worst time of my life. Women, just like these girls out here, took that first step to ensure that I'd survive that time,” said Cates.
On his feet and coaching seemed like an impossible feat at one point for Cates. The car crash from five years ago broke Cates' neck in three places and also broke his back, leaving a passionate coach motionless and paralyzed.
“I couldn't breathe because when you break C3 you can't breathe very well. I was just panting, trying to stay alive,” said Cates. “It was devastating. There's no words to describe how you feel when you can't move. There's nothing that can make that better.”
Nothing did make it better until one of Cates former players, who also served as a nurse at the hospital he was at, paid him daily visits to talk about a mutual love- basketball.
“She actually got a group of my ex-players and they all came to my hospital room. There was probably about 30 women with their daughters and sons, and they just visited with me the next two hours. I did a lot of crying but I tell you the honest to God truth, that saved me. I don't know that I really could or really wanted to fight at the point because I didn't want to be where I was and I couldn't see a way to get out of it,” said Cates.
The branches of his long coaching career were so deeply rooted, that he was getting calls to coach again while in the hospital.
“One of my coaching buddies called me and said, ‘My daughter's a freshmen and I want you to come coach her team.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I can't walk.’ He then said I’d coach her team whether he had to push me in a wheelchair or hospital bed. He didn’t care. That really turned things around for me,” said Cates.
His competitive spirit was lite again.
It started out with two inch steps, then 8 months later, Cates learned how to walk again.
“I love to compete. It’s what I do. It's an identity and when I wasn't coaching and I was in the hospital, I didn't lose that identity. It stuck with me throughout that time,” said Cates. “Your nurses and doctors, all they call you is coach. You take pride in that because that’s what you do and if you're good at what you do, you take pride in that skill.”
Cates said he doesn't do it alone and that's where his assistant coach, Ashley Currington, comes in to demonstrate drills for him.
“I can show them so he can coach through me. That's my favorite part of all of this, is I get to be his outlet so he can coach,” said Currington.
“You just find a way to overcome the shortness or the disability and fight through,” said Cates.
To the team, he's not only their coach but a walking inspiration.
“He could have quit after that and never do it again, but he pushed through because this is what he loves to do,” said Colmesneil basketball player Nature Jackson. “He’s an inspiration for me and the rest of the team. No matter how hard it gets, we have to push through no matter what.”
“He learned how to walk again and then he's still teaching us how to shoot a basketball,” said Colmesneil basketball player McKayla Marshall. “What he can teach and what he can do, it's amazing.”
“He loves the game so much that he got up to do it again because he knew he had the passion for it. He knew that he would get up and do it again,” said Colmesneil basketball player Krista Harris.
A car crash might have tried to take away Cates’ body, but the accident was no match in taking his mind for the game.
Last December, Cates celebrated 500 varsity career wins. It was a milestone that also served as a celebration of his life.
“The ones that gave me the 500 victories, those are the ones who saved my life in a very real way. That's a great story. That’s a great way to save somebody,” said Cates.
Cates is currently 18-7 this year at Colmesneil and is now celebrating 506 wins.