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Former star athlete triumphs after accident that left her paralyzed

By Deangelo Mcdaniel

The Decatur Daily

Published: Sunday, March 30 2014 9:43 a.m. MDT

She found the number to the emergency room and called back. Robyn implored her father to tell her the "whole" truth.

"He told me there were no outside injuries, but that Courtney couldn't feel her legs," Robyn said.

Courtney was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Birmingham for surgery.

Family members arrived before the helicopter. Doctors told them they would be able to see her, but needed to remain calm because she had blood in her lungs.

"I lost it," Robyn said.

Courtney looked up at the sister she admired and smiled.

"I got this," Courtney said.

Her spirits remained high following two surgeries and two months in rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta rehabilitation facility.

The stubborn soul that pushed opponents around on the athletic field was now directing the family.

When Courtney was in intensive care with tubes running from her body, Royal Carpenter announced that he would not coach football the coming fall.

Courtney opened her eyes, looked at her father and said: "Daddy, I want you to coach."

So he did. Hatton had one of its best football seasons ever, and Royal Carpenter was named state 2A Coach of the Year.

Four months after the wreck, in mid-July 1994, Courtney returned to the gymnasium where she had reached so many of life's milestones, including learning to crawl. A few weeks later, before school opened for her junior year, Principal Larry Hancock explained the changes that had been made to make the school more accessible for her.

There were tough moments, but Courtney decided to stay involved with athletics. She attended practices and traveled with the team when she could.

One day during her senior year, she jokingly mentioned that she was going to walk at graduation.

It was a joke because it seemed impossible — until a nurse at a Decatur rehabilitation center told her about a brace.

"She thought I could do it, but I knew I could," Courtney said.

Only a handful of people knew about the plan. But cheers rose at the graduation ceremony when Courtney, wearing braces on her legs, walked across the stage into the embrace of her father, who gave her a hug, a kiss and a red rose.

She accepted an academic scholarship to the University of North Alabama and lived on campus two years until her sister, who married and became Robyn Hutto, was hired as head volleyball coach at Lawrence County High.

Hutto said she was the brains, but Courtney, working as a volunteer assistant, was the inspiration that carried the team to Class 4A state championships in 1998 and 1999.

"My playing time was cut short, but this put me back in touch with the game, and I loved the competition," Courtney said. "Coaching is about inspiring kids. I felt I could help them with their dreams, regardless of my circumstances."

She had more dreams of her own.

While at UNA, she prayed she would meet her soulmate — the person who would look past what she couldn't do and focus on her heart.

In 1999, Scott Boyll walked into Cornerstone Church, bringing with him what he called his "issues."

Born in California, he didn't grow up in the church. Courtney was the first person he met at Cornerstone, and she put him at ease.

"Her smiled nailed me," he said.

Scott Boyll, now 34, didn't say anything to her because "I knew she was from a prominent family, and I didn't think I was good enough for her."

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