By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
Smiles and hugs were abundant inside a meeting room at the Cullman Police Department Wednesday afternoon.
Inside the same room, Andrew Winfrey was taking jabs at several of the officers for cheering for the ‘wrong’ college football team.
"You're an Auburn fan? Boo," he said while giving a thumbs down.
It was a sight welcome by all who were in the room, Auburn fan or not. Almost 11 months earlier, things didn't look so good for the Cullman High student.
On February 21, 2012 the Bearcat multi-sport athlete was involved in a serious, single-vehicle accident on Mitchell Road that would change his life and give many in the community a new meaning to the word ‘inspiration.’ Winfrey was immediately airlifted to Huntsville Hospital, listed in serious, but stable condition. Weeks later, he was transferred to Shepherd's Center in Atlanta where he would begin a long road to recovery.
Though he didn't want to speak in front of the group, he did offer words of thanks to everyone he came in contact with Wednesday afternoon. After all, saying ‘thank you’ is the reason he wanted to stop by, according to his mom Holly.
"We're just so thankful for everything they've done and to the people of Cullman as well," she said.
Craig Green, Assistant Police Chief with the department, was one of several officers who worked the scene of the accident that day. He said seeing what has transpired since then has "totally and forever changed the way we work."
"There are times things aren't going well for us, and we get upset with ourselves, but you've set the standard high for us," Green said while speaking to Winfrey. "The mayor says Cullman is a city of character, but in my way of seeing things, you've set that standard for the city of character. People invested after the tornado, and insurance companies invested, but to watch you reminds me that it took nothing but Andrew Winfrey."
Cullman mayor Max Townson was also on hand at the gathering, and elaborated a tad more from the words Green had to offer.
"In 2008 when I was campaigning to be mayor, I had never been a politician," he said. "At that time, the saying was, 'Cullman is special,' and as I was going into the debates, I often thought why is Cullman so special. It was then that I came up with character.
"Later, I had no idea that would come to fruition, not only through Andrew Winfrey, but through the tornado too."
When it was mentioned that Andrew has hopes of one day playing ball again, officer J.P. White, who was one of the first on the scene the day of the wreck, said he has no doubt Andrew can make that happen.
"Through life you meet a lot of people you don't bet against, and you're one of those people," he told Andrew. "I have no doubt you'll succeed."
Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org