Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

BROOMFIELD -- There were some miracle finishes at the March of Dimes 5K walk on Saturday at Interlocken.

One of the stories featured in the Boulder chapter fundraiser belongs to the Tuiasosopo family.

On July 1, 2009, Mike and Kathy Tuiasosopo welcomed their fourth child, Luke, into the world.

Within hours of the delivery the range of emotions went from pure joyfulness to stunned anguish.

Luke was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit in Tucson, Ariz., where he was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

In layman's terms, the baby's lungs were not receiving enough blood and he was unable to breathe by himself.

"He was the sickest of all the babies in there," Mike Tuiasosopo, Colorado's defensive line coach, recalled. "And yet during that time, one day the baby on his left passed away, and another day the baby on his right passed away.

"There was Luke in the middle of all that. It's really a miracle that he's here."

The Tuiasosopo's sat in disquieting limbo at the hospital for several weeks wondering if Luke would ever be able to come home.

A Nitric Oxide treatment, a medical option that came about due to research funded by the March of Dimes, helped save Luke's life.

"When he went on that therapy it was a big turn in his recovery. Huge," Mike Tuiasosopo said. "We were in the hands of God and the hands of the doctors. We trusted all of that. It certainly tested our faith and mettle as a family."


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On Sunday Mike and Luke Tuiasosopo crossed the finish line together with smiles on their faces, like when dad's team beat Utah to finish the 2011 season.

"When you go through something like what we went through, you certainly gain a greater appreciation for life itself," Mike Tuiasosopo said. "Things that seem meaningless are a lot more meaningful. You're grateful and you take every opportunity you can to make things worthwhile."

The Tuiasosopos, including Luke's older sisters Lanea and Maya, and big brother Titus, are enjoying their new life in Colorado.

After spending seven seasons coaching at Arizona, Mike Tuiasosopo was hired by Jon Embree on Dec. 14, 2010, to help rebuild the program in Boulder from the ground up as it entered a new era in Pac-12.

Other members of the coaching staff and a strong contingent of Buffs players -- including healed up quarterback Nick Hirschman, who missed spring drills with a foot injury -- participated in Saturday's 5K.

"That speaks to the family atmosphere that coach Embree has created here and our love and our care for each other as people who coach and work together every day," Mike Tuiasosopo said. "It's a real tribute to our players to come out here and support the cause. I'm really thankful to them."

It's easy to dwell on all of the negative stories in college football -- from Bobby Petrino's motorcycle and moral issues to the ugly brawl and ensuing apartment search involving prominent Colorado State players.

The truth is most young men and coaches involved in the sport do the right thing when no one is looking.

Last year CU running back Brian Lockridge was honored nationally for his off-field volunteer work, which included playing the piano for patients at the Boulder Community Foothills Hospital, cooking meals at the Boulder Homeless Shelter, and tutoring children of migrant workers.

The Buffs4Life Foundation that Embree began organizing in 2005 does amazing work helping former CU athletes and their families in need.

The good karma, including marching together for babies like Luke, doesn't mean the Buffs are going to upset Oregon and USC this fall.

But chemistry is an important part of football. The Buffs appear to have a healthy dose of it off the field.

"We love Colorado," Mike Tuiasosopo said. "I know that we're going to turn the corner here soon because we have the right people in place."