SAN DIEGO — “I thought I was fine, I just had the wind knocked out of me. But my buddy said, ‘hey man, don’t move, you’re really messed up,’” says Brett Palser.

Sixteen years ago, Palser accidently drove his ATV headfirst into one of his friends.

“What the heck just happened, and what’s next?” Palser recalled thinking.

The Santee native soon found out the crash left him as an incomplete paraplegic — leaving him without function in his legs. 

“Although injured and in a chair, I’m not dead, and so that was kind of my mindset going forward,” Palser said.

After rehab, his new reality took a toll on him.

“There was a big span where I didn’t do nothing. I was just a big couch potato,” Palser said.

In 2019, Palser made a change, joining 1904, a Kearny Mesa-based gym.

He eventually lost 60 pounds and regained his competitive spirit, eventually participating in the WheelWod Games for adaptive athletes in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“I don’t remember what I placed. Maybe like 20th, I was pretty far down there,” Palser said.

After two years of hard work, lifting weights and other exercises, he took second place in the same competition.

“It was a big goal of mine and it was really awesome to stand on that podium,” Palser said.

Palser is all about encouraging people to try adaptive sports. Recently, he took that encouragement to the next level, coaching people in his community.

“The adaptive program really lit a spark to coach others, especially in the adaptive community,” says Palser.

Whether it’s competing or coaching, Palser isn’t slowing down.

“Working really hard for that pay off in the end, is what I’ve been chasing, and what I’ve been chasing to this day,” Palser said.