SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Sixteen-year-old Kyler Mines has been confined to the same hospital position for over two weeks — bedridden on his back, in an induced coma and intubated after suffering a life-threatening brain injury during a Sept. 5 junior varsity football game in Sheridan.
“He got a touchdown, he played the whole entire game," his grandmother Mary Dailey-Smith told MTN. "It wasn’t until after the game that he started feeling poorly.”
Dailey-Smith said her sophomore grandson was taken to the Sheridan hospital by ambulance shortly after, and that's when fear jolted the family.
“They tried to get him to calm down, did a CT scan and found a brain bleed. He started to crash, they had to intubate him, get him medicine and off to Denver,” she said.
Just like that, the young athlete whose goal in life was to play for the Denver Broncos was fighting for his life at the Denver Children’s Hospital where he remains.
Despite watching game film over and over, coaches, teammates and athletic trainers found it hard to pinpoint exactly where and when the injury happened.
“He doesn’t ever go down (in the video) and ask for trainer’s help," recalled Broncs head coach Jeff Mowry. "He doesn’t ever share that his head is hurting until after the game.”
Sophomore teammate River Osborne was on the field with Kyler and wasn’t sure what to think.
“I did notice him on the sideline. He was just down on a knee ... kind of just had his head down and was resting," Osborne recalled. "I asked him if everything was OK and I didn’t really know if he shook his head up and down or didn’t do anything at all, but that’s just kind of how he is, so I didn’t think much of it.”
Kyler played both linebacker and running back in the game against Cody. Once coaches and teammates realized the severity of his head injury after the fact, they devised different signs of solidarity, starting with the sophomores.
“Keegan Rager texted our group chat, ‘Would you guys all want to get buzz cuts for Kyler?' And we were pretty much all on board with it,” Osborne said with a smile.
Chelsey Mines, Kyler's mother, also smiled at the thought while speaking with MTN.
“Kyler’s hair is one of his main things," she said. "It’s like football to him, don’t touch his hair. And now that it’s shaved, everybody knows he’s going to be extremely sad about his hair.”
Sheridan's seniors enterprised their own thoughts.
“We’ve got stickers on the back of our helmets now that (say) Kyler Mines, number 35, so we kind of came up with that idea," said wide receiver/safety Dane Steel. "But the sophomores shaving their heads, that was pretty good.”
They didn’t stop there. Some of the guys have decided to help lend a hand — or a mower — at Grandma Mary’s while she’s in Denver with Kyler.
“Me and Breck Reed, we both got our little push mowers and just cut up her grass for her," Osborne said. "She didn’t ask us to or anything.”
Those are gestures within the team. Mowry says folks from all over Wyoming are also reaching out.
“There’s only 500,000 people in this state and it’s kind of a small town with long roads. We’ve gotten people reaching out from Green River, from Gillette, from Cheyenne," Mowry said. "At their rivalry game, the Oil Bowl, Casper Kelly Walsh versus Casper Natrona, (they) did a pass the hat for the Mines family here in Sheridan and they raised over $5,000.”
Help also appears to be on the way from one of Wyoming’s star NFL players.
“On the 30th of this month we’re going to have a fundraiser for him," said senior running back/linebacker Terran Grooms. "We’ll have Logan Wilson, who’s a linebacker for the (Cincinnati) Bengals from Casper ... he’ll be sending in some signed gear to auction off.”
Wilson is one of the Bengals' leading tacklers, signing a four-year extension just last month.
Kyler's fundraiser is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Kalif Shrine Center located at 145 W. Loucks Street in Sheridan.
Coaches and teammates say Kyler showed over the summer that he was one of the hardest-working Broncs. It’s already showing within the hospital. His mom tells MTN Kyler was released from the ventilator on Wednesday and, while still unconscious, is already progressing by following simple commands like squeezing hands, pointing toes and even yawning.
Stunningly, as Kyler battles in his hospital room, it sparks tragic memories for his mother who lost a seven-month infant boy just steps away on the same floor.
“They claim sudden infant death. He was at daycare, and I’d seen him 30 minutes before he had stopped breathing," Chelsey Mines recounted. "And he’s literally right down the hall from Kyler, so it’s really emotional, and ... I just need to bring Kyler home.”
“It just really hurts your heart,” said Osborne.
Mowry was actually able to visit Kyler and his family in person after driving to Denver, then meeting his team for a game in Laramie.
“It was a tough couple of hours," Mowry admitted. "Thank goodness Grandma (Mary) was there because I wouldn’t have been able to hold it together. I didn’t lose it until the drive to Laramie.”
The Broncs won that game in Laramie and are now chasing a third straight state title.
But the number they truly have in mind is No. 35.
Editor's note: Donations can be made to the Kyler Mines Medical Relief Account at First Northern Bank of Wyoming at 29 N. Gould Street, Sheridan, WY, 82801.