Missoula Big Sky senior Dustin Tulberg has been a walking miracle his entire life.
"He was actually born dead," says his father Roger Tulberg. "He was dead for 15 minutes when he was born and they told us that he wasn't going to live. And if he did he'd be a vegetable he'd never be able to walk, talk, crawl, feed himself or anything."
Tulberg has been defying odds for 18 years now. And one of his biggest passions is the sport of basketball he's been a manager for the Big Sky basketball program for three years. But this past Saturday he wanted a little bit more... he asked junior varsity head coach Tyler Hobbs if he could play.
"I looked down at the bench and he looked at me and we made eye contact," said Hobbs. "You could tell he was just chomping at the bit to get out there. I said Dustin let's go."
"My eyes were like... wide open," says Dustin about hearing his name called. "I was so happy."
"He kept looking down at the coach and we kept thinking wow is the coach maybe going to put him in?" recalls Dustin's mother Tammy Tulberg. "But we didn't know until the coach said 'Tulberg'. It was shocking to us because we knew that was his dream and it was just amazing."
Tulberg entered the game for the final minute of play. Big Sky was down by several baskets. But today their focus was not to win the game; their focus was for Tulberg to score. But after missing his first few shots, Dustin had everybody in the Big Sky gym a little bit nervous.
"He's not too bad at layups so when he missed those first three I was a little nervous but I knew he was going to make it," said Big Sky sophomore player Colin Bingham.
But as the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock, Tulberg found the bottom of the basket and scored his two points.
"His whole body was excited," said Tammy. "His face was excited and you just knew that meant everything to him that he made that shot."
"It really showed we do care about him. And he really provides a lot of motivation for us," says varsity senior Ethan Donaldson.
"It was his dream to play for Big Sky, that was his dream," said Roger Tulberg. "And then to make points on top of that and get in there. That's the experience of his lifetime for sure."
And as much sportsmanship was on the court between Big Sky's JV and Helena's JV... It might have been Tulberg that helped us all to see the bigger picture.
"Children that are like Dustin have dreams and hopes just like everybody else," says Tammy Tulberg. "It just was inspirational and that's what people say to me... is how inspired they were by the story."