A fight for survival delayed but didn’t stop this Health and Exercise Science student’s dream

Two men pose in front of Adidas banner
Tony Tran, left, and a client at EXOS

Tony Tran was attempting to do the right thing in 2016 when he had a life-changing accident. After trying to prevent someone from driving under the influence, he was run over by the vehicle. Doctors performed a craniotomy to save his life, and he woke up from a coma three weeks later. Once stable, Tran was transported to Craig Hospital in Denver Colorado for extensive neurorehabilitation.

Road to recovery

Tran went through intense physical therapy for a full year to recover from the incident that had left him in a fight for survival. After rehab, he was able to once again focus on his goal of finishing his degree in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University.

“We are fortunate to live in a great state for physical activities and I wanted to become part of that professionally,” said Tran.

However, it would prove to be a long road to recovery. His excitement for life and completing his degree often led him to beginning each semester as a full-time student.

“When the material became too difficult during the semester, he unfortunately found himself withdrawing from some classes to focus his energy on just one to two classes per semester,” explained Wendy DeYoung, assistant department head and director of health promotion. “But, he always had a smile on his face and made friends with many students and faculty during his journey. Everyone knows Tony, enjoys his company, and admires his resilience.”

Thanks to the support of adviser Tami Boday and CSU’s Student Disability Center, Tran was able to overcome challenges in classes that he had been struggling to pass and land his dream internship.

An opportunity to shine

Although challenged in the classroom, Tran excelled when given the opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge in a work environment.  He applied for and was accepted with EXOS to do his full-time internship.

EXOS is a fitness facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that works with everyone from middle schools to elite level athletes, to tactical groups and corporate employees. This hands-on learning experience helped Tran discover who he was as a professional.

“I learned that I have to be self-motivated, that it’s important to be a team player, and that I can encourage others through my actions,” said Tran.

During his internship, Tran was able to help train Major League Baseball players as well as athletes in football and basketball. At the same time, he helped train individuals from the community that were interested in weight loss or improvements in muscles strength.  Each group of athletes was unique and had different challenges.

“Tony’s talent was adjusting to each group and finding unique training programs and tips to help every athlete reach their ultimate potential,” said DeYoung.

Starting a new journey

Tran obtained five training certifications through EXOS that will serve him throughout his career.  After the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, he hopes to return to Arizona where he will train and encourage others to be their best selves through exercise and balanced nutrition.

“My training philosophy is that you have to believe in yourself mentally before you can take small steps to achieve your goal.  I try to inspire clients with that as we train,” said Tran.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.