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Kyler "Beau" Mathis, who survived traumatic brain damage from an accidental gunshot to his head when he was in the fifth grade, is well known on and off the football field. Today he's a high school senior who hasn't let the resulting physical damage slow him down. The morale manager, of the baseball and football teams, he was honored at Paducah Tilghman High School's homecoming football game.

Unstoppable Beau

story by Alex Ledet

It’s hard to go two minutes without hearing greetings such as “Beau money!” and “Yo Beau!” accompanied by handshakes, high fives and fist bumps when you’re walking within earshot of Kyler “Beau” Mathis at McCracken County High School.

Beau is something of a town legend in Paducah, all because of a tragic accident that happened while he was taking part in a common activity. Rewind seven years, five brain surgeries, 25 days in a coma and one accidentally discharged .22-caliber bullet, and you have Beau Mathis, 10, shooting targets in his backyard.

Now Beau is a senior in high school, the “morale manager” of the football and baseball teams and a social butterfly. The disabilities that resulted from his accident include short-term memory loss, vision problems and some physical impairments — most noticeably, an immobile left arm and a weakened left leg. These disabilities don’t seem to slow him down.

Even before he could talk, Beau was pushing himself. According to his mother, Anne Wallace, Beau was an early walker. Now, even with a limp, he’s almost never late to class and has a near- perfect attendance record, only occasionally missing school for doctors' appointments.

Surrounding Beau is a strong and supportive community. “They’re very protective of Beau,” his mother says. When McCracken County High School took in two other high schools four years ago, there were a large number of people around Beau who didn’t know his story. But there also were many who knew him before his accident.

Regardless of whether they know his whole story, Beau always manages to brighten up peoples' day, either with a joke, a flirtatious comment or a simple ear-to-ear smile.


Beau is a very social kid, always greeting people and making those around him smile. During his lunch break at McCracken County High School he cracks a joke with Noah Windhorst, 16, (second from left), while sitting with his friends Connor Griggs, 17 (left), and James Dodd, 17, (right).


Even though he can't play most sports, Beau is a big football fan. His bedroom is full of Chicago Bears memorabilia and old jerseys brandishing the number 90, his personal number when he played football in the fifth grade.


After many days in a coma, brain surgeries and years in a wheel chair, Beau has to deal with some physical disabilities. Unable to move his left arm, he could suffer pain from tightened muscles. Amanda Sturm, his usual physical therapist, stretches muscles in his fingers during a weekly physical therapy session.


During the school day, Beau leaves class a few minutes early to avoid the scrum in the hallways and make it to his next class on time. He usually opts to take the stairs even if it's challenging for him.


Beau attends every McCracken County High School football game as an honorary member of the team. While on the sidelines, players greet him as they pass, usually bumping fists and always sharing a smile.


Beau bounces a balloon with one hand. His physical therapy aims to improve the connection between his brain and damaged muscles. He hopes for improved use of his left leg.


At the senior night ceremony beau is flanked on his left by his mother, Anne Wallace, and stepfather, Brad Wallace, and his father, Sheldon Mathis, stepmother, Rose Mathis, and stepbrother, Sean Mathis, on his right.


Beau's bedroom door offers a glimpse into his personality.


After a practice for senior night ceremony, Beau walks off the field to find his mother and sister waiting for him.

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