DUPLIN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldog football team hasn't missed a beat. After winning a third consecutive state championship, head coach Joey Price stepped down, opening the door for Kevin Motsinger to return to Duplin County.
Much like his team, Motsinger is also hitting his stride, but he's doing it after coming close to losing his life.
"I can remember flying through the air, consumed in a ball of fire," Motsinger recently said from his office at Wallace-Rose Hill High School.
During summer break, a simple day of yard work went terribly wrong.
Motsinger, like he has so many times on a football field, drew up a plan to get rid of a stump on his property but some fire ants forced an audible.
"I saw them out there one day so I took the spray," Motsinger said. "I spray around the house for all kinds of bugs and stuff and I sprayed around that stump. I took a cup of my fire ant pellets and threw them down there."
Add a little gas to get the fire going, no more ants and no more stump, and nearly no more Motsinger.
"The gas burned up. Everything was good. I started to walk away and for some reason, I stopped," Motsinger said. "I turned around and I can still see it like I see you. I could see the red flame going down and then all of a sudden the next thing I know, it blasted me."
The blast was so strong it threw him close to 20 feet.
"Looking at it now, the spray I put on it was the accelerant," he said. "The fire ant pellets inside confined places are highly explosive so I made a stump bomb."
After gathering himself, Motsinger was able to get up and walk inside the house. That's when he and his wife realized how seriously hurt he was.
"I was in a ball of fire," Motsinger said. "It didn't get in my face. I mean it got my arms and my legs. Best thing I could compare my arm to is a pack of Neese's Sausage and honestly, I thought it was the worst. At that time I couldn't feel my right hand. Then I go to look at my legs. My right leg had a hole about the size of a softball and my left leg was just purple."
Despite all of the trauma, the football player mentality never left his body.
"In my mind I'm like, I'm going to drive myself to the hospital. They're going to put some goo all over me and plug up that hole in my leg and wrap my arm up and I'll be home that evening and that's, in my mind, what I'm thinking," Motsinger said.
But that's not at all what happened. A trip to Pender Memorial Hospital led to another to Chapel Hill and the burn center at UNC. There, Motsinger underwent surgery to repair the damage and to begin his road to recovery.
"The whole time I was there I walked. I walked from here to California. The number one thing they say, I had to get movement and get the blood flowing in there and I had to force blood in there," he said.
A week after he was wheeled in, Motsinger walked out of the hospital and headed home where his mind started to race, not about football, but about what he almost lost.
"The number one thing that I could live with was my wife and my two sons were in the house and not outside," Motsinger said. "Most times Deacon is with me and Ruger would have been running around. Looking, you know what if he had been outside? You know that in itself was what kept me, I'm going to keep fighting and do what I got to do."
It's an attitude that Motsinger asks of the young men who play for him to adopt and because he walked the walk. He was back with them on the field for the year's first practice and opening night, and he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"Emotionally it kind of hit me a little bit, um, it's a smack in the face that we've all had in our lives that all of a sudden that wake-up moment and sometimes it means a little bit more and you better cherish what you've got," Motsinger said.