Brothers reflect on Perryville title

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Perryville High School 2005 graduate Matt Schamburg stood on the sidelines Friday night during the Pirates annual alumni football game, pointing just inside the 10-yard line. He was reflecting on the spot on the field where his former teammate, Matt Unterreiner, intercepted a pass against Dexter during the 2004 season to give the Pirates a district championship title.

For Schamburg, that triple-overtime victory had added importance because he had dedicated that entire 2004 season to his twin brother, Mike Schamburg, who was forced to watch from the sidelines after he was paralyzed in a car accident the previous May.

Mike was a second-team all-conference offensive tackle the fall before the accident. Matt Schamburg was a talented football player, too. He was a first-team all-region linebacker and first-team all-conference as both a linebacker and an offensive guard.

"I was playing with a heavy heart because he could not play, and I know how much he wanted to," Matt said. "I know how much it hurt him to come to every game, but he did it and supported me, and that was big for me -- just to have him be there."

Pirates coach Rick Chastain said he clearly recalls the day of the accident and the difficult senior year that followed for Mike.

"Everything was against him, and he said, 'I am going to do the best I can,' and he's done it," Chastain said. "He's taken the bull by the horns and gotten better each and every day."

Mike has worked hard over the past three years to increase his strength by training daily in the weight room and by using a special bike which stimulates his leg muscles. He also rides his wheelchair 3 to 5 miles some nights.

With his added strength, Mike has been able to gain his independence. He has lived for the past six months in an apartment in St. Louis with Matt and two other former Perryville football players. He and Matt both study criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Mike is considering attending law school after he earns his degree.

He has not given up on his athletic career either. He is looking to join a wheelchair rugby league in the St. Louis area. He added that he could become involved with other wheelchair sports, too.

"There's a team up in St. Louis I'd like to play for if I'm good enough someday," Mike said as he watched from his wheelchair from the sidelines. He then turned his attention to some of the other activities he likes to particpate in when he is not working out. "I am just trying to work hard in school basically right now. I also like to hang out with my friends."

Matt was the first person in the Schamburg family to learn that Mike flipped his vehicle and was ejected from it. He said the man who owned property near the accident scene called him to inform him about what had happened.

"I knew he wasn't dead because the guy told me, but I didn't know how severe his injuries were," Matt said. "I didn't know if he broke his arm, but it was a lot worse than that. It was scary because I didn't know what was wrong with him."

Matt added: "He is the hardest working person I know. He spends hours of every day doing rehab to get better and to better himself, and not only to get stronger, but to do more stuff to get independent. He's my hero."

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