Written by Melissa Mahler
It is with great sadness I write that ProPlayerInsiders has lost a member of its family, Francis Micheli. Francis was an inspiration to us and to everyone he touched. This past Sunday, Francis was struck by a car while he was walking from the Met Life Sports Complex to the parking lot after enjoying the New York Giants game. He was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center and subsequently died from his injuries.
On June 6, 2009 Francis said, “I began a new life. A life of challenges I could never imagine, and filled with priceless insight I could only wish for.” Francis wasn’t talking about receiving a college scholarship, a trip or a job offer. He was talking about the “second chance at life” he received following a car accident which almost killed him.
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”
When the accident occurred, Francis had just finished his freshman year at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and was looking forward to transferring to Life University in Marietta, Ga., to study Chiropractic and Sports Medicine. On the drive home Francis fell asleep and hit a tree in the median on I-81, 15 miles south of a hotel he had booked to spend the night in Roanoke. He was admitted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital with major injuries to his head and torso: traumatic brain injury, a diffused axon injury, collapsed lungs, a broken collar bone and scapula, and his jaw broken in four places.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
After four months in a coma, Francis awoke with no memory of the accident or his trip to Georgia. His once 190 pound athletic frame had shrunk to a mere 120 pounds and was being held together by a series of metal plates and screws interspersed with tubes, wires and other monitors to keep him alive. He had to learn to walk, talk, breath, swallow and remember all over again.
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
~ Alexander Graham Bell
Francis didn’t spend a minute staring at a closed door. “I will think about all the wonderful people and the selfless things done by them to help me and see the glass as half full,” said Francis. It’s that attitude that inspired me, and everyone, that had the privilege of knowing him. He wasn’t bitter. He didn’t expect or want special treatment. He wanted to help others and use his “second chance” to make the world better for those he had the ability to reach and, maybe even more importantly, give others the courage to believe in themselves.
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable … Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ E.E. Cummings
Bob Woodruff was someone that helped Francis believe in himself and was motivated to help others with TBI. Francis wrote, “I was fortunate enough to meet and become good friends with a well-known news correspondent and TBI survivor, Bob Woodruff. The time with Bob, coupled with the extensive physical therapy I received, motivated me to become a certified personal trainer so I can help others.” While reporting on the war in Iraq, Bob nearly died from a roadside bomb. He survived, but suffered a TBI from the blast.
“Francis was a shining light that was getting brighter week by week. He (like many others) was an important participant in our TBI programs and was adopted as a family member. His energy and determination will be missed but never forgotten,” wrote Mark L. Gordon, M.D., Medical Director of Millennium-TBI Center in an email after learning of Francis’ death. Millennium-TBI is naming their annual recognition award the Francis Micheli Joy of Life Award which will be given to any organization or individual who excels in dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury.
I would always smile when I received an email from Francis sharing his latest accomplishment or article he had written about conditioning and improving the body. His monthly column for ProPlayerInsiders offered his advice on how to train like a professional athlete in a way that encouraged not intimidated. He recently shared with me his dream of becoming a physical therapist so that he could one day “give back the care” that he had received following his accident. Never one to sit back on his dreams, Francis recently entered a contest that awarded college scholarships to the winners.
To call on the words of Rose Kennedy, God gave Francis many gifts: spirit, beauty, intelligence, the capacity to make friends and inspire. There was only one gift He held back – length of life. I can hear Francis reminding us to focus on the many gifts he had received and not the one he hadn’t.
“This journey is not over. My losses were temporary. My gains are permanent.”
~ Francis Micheli
With much love and admiration we thank you Francis for sharing your story and inspiring us. We know your journey is not over and your many gains are permanent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Intrepid Fallen Hero’s Fund
Please make checks payable to the The Intrepid Fallen Hero’s Fund and include a note that it is given in Francis Micheli’s honor. Mail all donations to
The Intrepid Fallen Hero’s Fund
Mr Arnold Fisher
299 Park Ave
New York, NY 10171
Coxe and Graziano Funeral Home
767 East Boston Post Road
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Resurrection RC Church
910 Boston Post Road
Rye, NY 10580