BIG STEPS: Paralyzed student walks at graduation - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

BIG STEPS: Paralyzed student walks at graduation

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Life took almost everything from Chris Norton -- and he was ready to take it back.

"I made it publicly known that I wanted to walk across the stage at graduation," he said.

Norton was paralyzed from the neck down while playing football during his freshman year at Luther College. Doctors told him he has a 3% chance of ever walking again.

Norton did not accept those odds.

"I didn't know how I was going to walk across the stage, but I knew it was going to happen," Norton said.

Sunday, he accomplished that goal, standing up from his wheelchair, and walking several steps to receive his diploma, with Emily Summers at his side for support. They met in the years since the injury, and began dating.

She was with him as he spent the last few months at an intensive physical therapy program in Michigan. He credited this with preparing him for the walk.

When his name was called, and he rose from his chair Sunday morning -- the gathered crowd of thousands burst into applause. Applause that continued as he put one foot in front of the other, and left his wheelchair in the wings. Applause didn't end until he'd left the stage.

"The energy in the room was unreal," he said Monday, from his parents' home in Altoona. "I couldn't soak it in until I was done walking. I was just completely focused on making sure every step was perfect."

But honestly, he said, that wasn't even the highlight of his weekend -- just the day before, he proposed. That brought way more anxiety.

"I didn't eat all day," he laughed.

Now, with one goal accomplished, the couple moves on to another.

"Planning our wedding!" Summers said.

Norton also has a book coming out later this year, entitled, "The Power of Faith When Tragedy Strikes." He said by sharing his story, he hopes to help others.

"Just feel inspired to be better in their lives an just be thankful for what they do have," he said.

Since his injury, Norton also founded the SCI CAN foundation, which helps others recover from catastrophic spinal injuries. Find out more here.

Luther student Michael Crocker captured the whole day on video. See his piece here.

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