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For the keyboardist for Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band, see Michael Utley
Michael Utley (born December 20, 1965) is a former American football player. He is known for being paralyzed during an NFL game.
Utley was an offensive lineman with the Detroit Lions, picked in the third round of the 1989 NFL Draft. In his rookie year, Utley became the starting right guard for the Lions. He started the first five games, but was injured in the fifth game against the Minnesota Vikings. Utley was put on injured reserve for the rest of the year. In his second year, he fractured two ribs in the third preseason game. He was sidelined for the last preseason game and the first three regular season games. Utley came off the bench by playing in the second half of the next two games. He started in the sixth game, but dislocated his shoulder in the 3rd quarter. He finished the season playing only in the 2nd half for the rest of the season.
In his third year, Utley started every game and was the full time right guard until a paralysis injury forced him to retire. An injury to his sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae occurred in a game against the LA Rams on November 17, 1991. Although he would later learn he was largely paralyzed from the chest down, Utley flashed the crowd a "thumbs up" as he was being taken off the field. The thumbs up sign has become the symbol for the Mike Utley Foundation, a foundation created in 1991 by Utley and his agent Bruce Allen to help seek a cure for paralysis.
While the location of his injury makes him a quadriplegic by the standard medical definition, he has essentially complete use of his upper extremities, making him functionally a paraplegic.