This is Part II of a two-part series on American hero Mike Bearden. To read Part I, click here.

As a boy, Mike was a huge fan of comic book superheroes. He had a Superman T-shirt with a big red “S” on it that he loved to wear around the property. Of course, that wasn’t unusual. A lot of kids his age had fantasies about being a superhero when they grew up. But Mike was serious about it. Firefighters captured his imagination. He could think of nothing more exciting than climbing up into a burning building, rescuing someone, and jumping out with them to safety. He was never one to pick a fight or go looking for trouble, and when arguments came up he would play the diplomat and try to persuade everyone to get along. But he didn’t like bullies, and he refused to stand by and let anyone pick on anyone else. Through his school years, his teachers routinely pointed out that little Mike was someone who always stood up for the underdog.

One year, when he was in Scotland on tour with his church choir, Mike’s parents got a transatlantic call from the choir director. “Uh-oh,” they thought when they learned who was calling. “What now?” There was no problem, the choir director hastened to assure them; he just wanted to let them know what had happened. They’d all been walking around town that day as a group, and they happened to witness someone stealing something. Everyone else stood riveted to the spot and stared. As any true superhero would, Mike sprang into action, chased the guy down, and put a hammerlock on him.

When he turned 14, it finally happened: He starting growing… and kept on growing. His parents struggled to keep him in jeans that year, and the next, and the year after that. Before long he was 6.4′, a lean, powerful 220 pounds, and the school’s star athlete.

From Little League on through high school, Mike had gotten into every sport he could, and he excelled in all of them. He was an all-star catcher, a valued linebacker, and a star swimmer. One year his high school football team was running an undefeated season, leading the district with one of the highest scores in the state. In a run-up to the state championship, they lost a coin flip and had to play a preliminary game to qualify. Mike was the starting fullback in that game and scored all his team’s touchdowns. Two games earlier he had injured his knee and it hadn’t fully recovered. Still, he played on. The two teams were neck-and-neck right down to the closing seconds. Then the opposing team kicked a field goal and took the game by a point.

By the time he finished high school, Mike’s knee was pretty bad. For his last four games, he had to stop in at the doctor’s office before each game to have the knee drained. The doc told him he shouldn’t be playing ball at all, but he was determined, and when Mike was determined, that was that. His knee might be suffering, but so what? He was Captain Indestructible.

After graduating from high school, Mike spent a few years working out what exactly he wanted to do with his life. After a year of college, he took a job as an assistant coach at Derenda’s old high school. There he had the chance to accomplish, as a coach, what he had come so close to achieving as a quarterback: That year, his undefeated team went right to the top and took the state championship. But as much as Mike loved coaching and football, he knew that wasn’t what he was here to do with his life. He was here to save people.

He didn’t want to be a coach.

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