Matt Tschetter is a fitness management major at Wartburg College in Waverly. He also played defensive end for the college's football team.
But almost a year ago, something happened to Matt Tschetter that, at the time, he was worried might keep him off the field.
He had flu-like symptoms and went to a local hospital. Initially, it didn't seem to be anything major, and he went home to Milford in northwest Iowa to recover.
But the Okoboji High School graduate said he didn't get better.
"I got home and my chest started hurting really bad, and it go to the point where I thought I needed to go to the hospital again," he said.
After a third visit to the hospital, he was sent by ambulance to Sioux Falls.
"From there it gets really fuzzy for me," said Tschetter.
Tschetter said he remembers waking up in the hospital bed with a bunch of tubes and a huge scar on his chest.
"Somehow I'd gotten a hole in my esophagus. They have no idea how that happened. Still to this day they have no idea," he said.
Doctors had to crack his chest, breaking his sternum, to drain fluid that was leaking from his esophagus into his chest, causing several infections. Doctors also put a stent in his esophagus.
"The way the doctor described it to me, it basically looks like a Chinese finger trap and they shove it down the throat where the hole was and it sits there until it heals," said Tschetter.
The Wartburg senior was in the hospital for almost a month. He went from weighing 240 pounds to 170.
He said gaining the weight back and making sure his sternum was fully healed for the fall football season were the two biggest parts of his recovery.
"There were a couple times I got hit there, and I actually had extra padding our trainer fixed up for me. It worked well," he said.
After the season, Tschetter was honored for his play on the field. He was named to first team defense for the Iowa Conference, and he was selected for the Division III All-Star game in Mexico.
Since last year, Tschetter hasn't had anymore more issues with his esophagus.
Doctors said it could happen again, but another episode probably isn't likely.
Tschetter is just concentrating on school, ready to graduate in May. Then he hopes to get a job coaching college football.
Reporter: Danielle Wagner