The story appeared to be over.

The tears were wiped away by 3,000 fans and adult football players and a college football game between Alfred University and Husson University was ready to begin.

Julio Fuentes, a former football player at Alfred University, had walked 15 yards, 10 years after being paralyzed on the same field and being told he would never walk again.

The moment he willed his way out of the wheelchair and onto a walker making the big steps was met by a thunderous ovation from both teams and the fans in attendance.

But the story didn't end there.

To walk, Julio had amazing support and guidance from Rehabilitation Today in Olean. He also had the support and help for two years of his girlfriend, Heather Levia.

When the steps were completed, he sat back down in his wheelchair. The teams then went on the field for the opening kickoff. The photographers and videographers who were focused on the one-time star, turned the cameras to the current stars, including Julio's brother, Maleke, who is honoring his brother this season wearing his No. 20.

Julio wheeled into the stands, made sure he said hi to all of his friends and former coaches and did an interview. He then went into the stands around the 50-yard-line surrounded by family and close friends only. He called Heather over. She thought he needed some help or an adjustment. He shared a few private words with her and she went down to HER knees, almost shocked and surprised, knowing the moment was coming. And as smooth as always, from out of the air, Julio suddenly had a black ring box he handed to Heather. She was in tears and said yes, slipped the ring on her finger and gave him a huge hug to the delight of their inner circle who witnessed the moment.

You want to talk about support? Heather's post about the engagement drew 484 likes in no time.

But the story didn't end there.

Alfred University has a new president, Mark Zupan. Usually a University president would have been part of the moment, in every photo and video, like a politician. Not Mark. He talked to the family well before Julio shocked the crowd by walking, before the teams made the field. He vanished from the moment and let the sports department handle the event.

He didn't hold a press conference, he didn't send out a press release.

But he listened to Julio. He read the articles and watched the videos.

Julio left Alfred University after the injury in September of his sophomore year in 2006. He was the first in his family to attend college. His brother is less than two years from being the first to graduate. Julio talked about helping others, becoming a counselor. Getting a degree. Despite the intense therapy and defying the doctor's prognosis and odds to walk again, he has taken some online courses at a local community college

President Zupan made a decision. He spoke to the Alfred University Board of Trustees and they unanimously voted to offer Julio Fuentes a full-tuition scholarship and waiver of all fees. Julio said last week everything he has asked Alfred University for over the past 10 years they said yes. He never asked for this kind of help.

Zupan said he hopes to see Julio "return to our University to complete his undergraduate studies and then walk across the stage to accept his Alfred University diploma."

Alfred University is in great shape with a new leader and taking care of its own. Julio Fuentes wants to inspire others, but his story has already done that in more ways than one.

If the story continues with him walking across the stage, it's one we will never get tired of writing.

(John Anderson is the regional editor. He can be reached at For exclusive video of the day at Alfred, see or