Big Rapids, Mich. - Former Ferris State University football
player and Bulldog alum Jim Bourdlais brought home
gold medals in several categories during the third annual "Thunder
In The Valley Games" held recently for disabled athletes.
Bourdlais, who sustained a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed during a 2006 car accident, captured first-place honors for his class in four events to go with one runner-up honor in the event held in early June on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University in University Center, Mich.
The former Bulldog defensive lineman took home the gold in the shot put, discus, javelin and archery while finishing second in the weight lifting category en route to national qualification status. Athletes were classed based on their level of injury.
Bourdlais threw the javelin 16.38 meters despite never picking up a javelin prior to the competition. He also posted top marks of 6.49 meters in the shot put and 14.55 meters in the discus with a top score of 486 in archery.
Since his accident, Bourdlais has made a habit of triumphing over adversity and beating otherwise long odds, including a walk across the stage of FSU's Jim Wink Arena to receive his degree in Criminal Justice from FSU in May 2008.
Bourdlais, who originally joined the Bulldog program as a freshman tight end in 2002, played in eight games for the Bulldogs during the 2004 season and posted a pair of tackles along with a pass breakup along the FSU defensive line. He later became a student assistant coach and valuable supporter following his accident.
During his prep career at Newberry High School, Bourdlais was an All-Upper Peninsula selection in football and a former U.P. state champion in both the shot put and discus. The 2002 Newberry graduate received All-Upper Peninsula Dream Team status as a tight end as a senior and was named to the All-Straits Area Conference on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. He caught 24 passes for 372 yards while compiling 56 tackles (31 solo) and 13 tackles for a loss of 95 yards in his final campaign.
The Newberry native is also the brother of former Ferris standout offensive guard Bill Bourdlais, who wrapped up his collegiate playing career during the 2007 season as an All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and all-region pick before eventually earning a National Football League (NFL) tryout with the Cleveland Browns and playing professional indoor football with the Green Bay Blizzard.
"The Thunder in the Valley Games" offer an opportunity to bring people with disabilities together to compete in a very similar model to the Paralympics. The games are open to all athletes, regardless of age or ability.
Proceeds from "Thunder in the Valley Games" are used to help Michigan Sports Unlimited, Inc. The organization recognizes the value of sports and recreation in the lives of individuals with disabilities with a mission to educate, instruct, and provide unlimited access to a wide range of recreational activities in order to improve the physical, social, and mental well being of each individual.