How do you define courage?
“Courage is doing stuff that’s challenging and willing to do it without fear,” said Greg Piscopink, a teacher at Detroit Renaissance and assistant football coach at Birmingham Brother Rice.
To Jennifer Piscopink, Greg’s wife: “It is having enough strength and willpower to get through something.”
Gregory Piscopink is Greg’s son and was Brother Rice’s senior quarterback last fall. In a few months he will be playing at Albion College.
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“My definition of the word courage is doing something maybe you’re afraid of,” he said. “Or maybe you’re a little scared to do something but you end up doing it anyways even though you have the butterflies in your stomach. You have the courage to overcome that and conquer your fears.”
When they look at Greg Piscopink, they now see the recipient of the 2020 Courage Award for the Detroit Free Press Sports Awards, sponsored by the Detroit Area Honda Dealers.
“Definitely my dad,” Gregory said. “Obviously a lot of people have courage in the world. It just happened to be my dad that went through a traumatic experience and overcame it with a lot of courage and stuff.”
A traumatic experience? That doesn’t begin to describe what happened to Piscopink on the evening of Aug. 15, 2018, and what he has gone through since.
He suffered numerous life-threatening injuries when the car his son was driving skidded off I-75 and into a tree, flipping on its side and collapsing around Greg.
The immediate threat was a tear in Piscopink’s aorta, and he was airlifted to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
But there was also the broken left foot; the dislocated right foot; multiple breaks in his lower left leg; a crack in his right femur; the demolished right hip socket; the broken pelvis; the left arm that was shattered from his shoulder to his elbow; nine broken ribs; the two broken bones in his face; and the bleeding in his brain.
Five teams of doctors worked on him in nine surgeries in a two-week span. He spent 33 days in critical care before going to two rehab centers.
He finally got home April 26.
“If you got a chance to see where he was in the hospital,” Brother Rice football coach Adam Korzeniewski said. “I’m just shocked to see that he could ever stand on two feet and actually take steps.
“I saw him take his first steps and to get to the point where he could formulate a sentence and then a paragraph. Yeah, it’s remarkable.”
What was more remarkable was that Piscopink recovered enough to rejoin Korzeniewski’s coaching staff in fall 2019.
In order to walk, he needed two forearm crutches. But at the season opener, there he was, making the agonizing, painful trek up an ungodly number of steps to reach the press box, where he would monitor the secondary.
Piscopink believes the lessons he learned playing at Farmington Hills Harrison and Grand Valley State allowed him to cope in his recovery.
“When people talk about high school athletics and why it’s so important, it’s things like that, that you can’t learn in the classroom that you learn on the field,” he said.
He attacked countless hours of grueling rehab because what he wanted was to be able to coach his son in his senior season.
That may be where his courage took center stage.
“I kind of take it for granted,” Piscopink said. “But when I talk to doctors and they really know how serious it was and I’m doing what I’m doing and they let me how impressive it is, I just get happy.”
Birmingham Brother Rice assistant football coach Greg Piscopink walks out of the Maple Manor Rehab Center in Novi on April 26, 2019, months after he suffered serious injuries in a car accident with his son on I-75.