There was a chance Tyler Burton was not going to survive.
The 21-year-old graduate of Mountain View High School was attacked while attending college in California, and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
He couldn't walk, talk or even swallow on his own.
That was in October 2012. Now, the progress Burton is making - progress his doctors credit, at least in part, to the determination that made him a standout football player - is inspiring everyone he comes in contact with.
"I feel like I'm the same me, in a broken body," Burton said at Peace health Southwest Washington Medical Center, where he spends hour after hour in a rehabilitation program. "But I'm getting better."
He's now able to walk around the hospital with only a little bit of assistance, and he's even got his appetite back. Burton said he just ate his first cheeseburger.
Police said this all started for the Shasta College student during Halloween weekend last year. Investigators said a stranger punched Burton at a costume event in Chico, and he hit his head on the pavement.
Andres Rodriguez was arrested and charged with felony battery. He pleaded not guilty and is due back in court in April.
Burton admits the road to recovery has been a painful and frustrating process, but he credits his background in athletics for giving him the physical and mental toughness to continue on.
"He definitely has that warrior mentality, where he's going to figure out how to improve and he's going to do it," said Dr. Jaime Nicacio.
Burton said he hopes to one day get back on the football field. In the meantime, he's focused on continuing to beat the odds.
"I don't want to be in a wheelchair," he said. "I want to walk and be able to do the things I used to do."
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