CANYON COUNTRY – Canyon High football players in search of inspiration need look no further than volunteer assistant coach Mike Civita, a functioning quadriplegic who has somehow managed to survive – and flourish – despite a broken neck and shattered vertebrae suffered in a car accident 20 years ago. Doctors told Civita there was no chance he would ever regain feeling in his arms and legs and that he would need 24-hour care for the rest of life, but after six months in the hospital Civita walked out under his own power and has never looked back. Now 41, he works 40-plus hours a week as administrative assistant to head coach Harry Welch. Besides his responsibilities of breaking down game video and handling all of the program’s technological issues, Civita also is Canyon’s public address announcer for football, baseball, basketball and track. “First of all, Mike Civita is such a motivation to me and all of us because I don’t think anyone has ever overcome more. Yet he asks for less than anyone I’ve ever known,” Welch said. “To me, he doesn’t have a handicap. I treat him as a man because he is a man, and like most of the people around here I don’t give him any slack. Plus, he’s honest and truly is a certifiable genius and technological wiz. I’ve never met anyone like him.” “It’s kind of funny. Austin’s a senior this year, and I never talk about football anymore like we did last season,” Civita said. “I don’t coach him, I’m just his uncle. I help out but certainly don’t take credit for his accomplishments. I want him to do well, but on his own terms.” Not surprisingly, Civita remembers the rainy night on the Central Coast when the accident happened, occasionally reliving the tragedy in his mind. A friend of his brother was driving, and Civita said it wasn’t clear how much the driver had been drinking until it was too late. “To this day, I still don’t like driving in the rain,” Civita said. He was sitting in the back seat when the car slid out of control and rammed into several parked cars. “At first I was paralyzed from the neck down but soon I had a vague sensation of feeling, so I just focused single-mindedly on that because I knew there was some hope that I’d get better,” he said. “My mom kept a journal through the days during my hospital stay but I’ve never had the guts to read it. Some day before I die, I will.” Civita could probably make a fortune as a motivational speaker or perhaps an author, but that’s not what he’s about. “I don’t like to look at myself in terms of being an inspiration or a role model or anything like that,” Civita said. “All I’ve tried to do is show that if you want something bad enough and obstacles are put in your way, you can do anything you want. I guess it’s just a matter of me being able to do my thing.” Gerry Gittelson, (661) 257-5218 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week For Civita, the less attention the better. He’s probably the last person in the world who wants the spotlight, but he also might be among the most deserving. A Canyon football player, then a fashion model and Hollywood scenemaker before the accident, Civita, still a handsome man with chiseled features, now walks with a slow, pronounced limp. But he’s walking, and that’s the most important thing. “People ask me all the time if I’m upset or depressed. But, hey, by all rights, I should be in a box, dead and buried,” he said. “People don’t have the injuries I had – a broken neck, a spinal fusion, and destroyed gall bladder – and survive. I’m maybe one in 30,000 who was able to do so. So every day is a great blessing.” Civita found strength through the support of his family – father Michael Sr., mother Carol, brothers Brian and Jonathan, stepsister Rhonda and six nieces and nephews. Among the nephews is Austin Civita, Canyon’s starting quarterback.