Cleveland, Ohio - Corwyn Collier's highest achieving moment in his athletic career didn't come when he received a call saying he was named as one of 10 disabled veterans to compete in the Power Triumph Games.

It didn't happen when he finished third in the state in high school in the 300-meter hurdles.

And it wasn't achieved when he ran the fourth fastest time in the 400 hurdles in college.

It came on May 23, 2009, when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle in Iraq.

The blast came from the right, its full force slamming into Collier, in the passenger seat. His right side - leg and hand - took the brunt of the explosion.

Collier credits his workouts, his physical training, for saving his life. But it's his drive and determination that helped land him a spot as the only person from the Midwest at the Power Games.

The competition pits eight men and two women in eight events, amassing points at West Point Military Academy. The endurance tests are aimed at challenging the veterans, physically and mentally. Top points earner wins $50,000.

The event is sponsored by OurVetSuccess, which promotes positive stories of veterans after they leave service. A mini-series on the competition will air Monday, Oct. 31, and in a one-hour CBS Sports special airing Saturday, Nov. 19.

Collier teaches history at his alma mater, Maple Heights High School, and lives in Stow with his wife and three sons. Applying for the games came as a last-minute thing, but it culminates a long road back. On a desert road in Iraq in 2009, Collier was closer to death than life.

Simply thinking of any type of competition wasn't even a dream.

'He's not going to make it'

Collier, who served as a military police guard in the Army National Guard, was on patrol in Taji north of Baghdad.

"I basically did military-police missions, working with Iraqi police, doing checkpoints, security at voting polls," he said. "On May 23, 2009, my truck was struck by an IED."

A few decades ago, IED meant nothing more than three letters of the alphabet. But it's become an all-too-common acronym for improvised explosive device.

Collier traveled in a four-truck convoy. Each vehicle had a driver, gunner in the back and team leader - Collier - in the passenger seat. The bomb that went off was so powerful all four trucks carrying the 12-man squad were lifted into the air.

The trucks were 50 meters apart.

"It still was enough of a blast - they put so much into the ground to kill us," he said. "It hit. At first I was a little dazed. I realized what was going on, I kept the other guys calm. We all worked on calling radio headquarters to get the helicopter to get us."

Collier talks matter-of-factly about his life-changing experience. When he says "I took the whole blast by myself," he's not bragging; it's almost more of a 'it happened, you move on' shrug.

What he remembers about the moment is being on the phone with his middle son.

"In the back of my mind, my son had just turned 2 years old (now 9)," he said. "His birthday is May 18. So I had just talked to him the night before. ... I was thinking I didn't want my sons to grow up without a father, and I didn't want my wife to go through that.

"They had to pull me out of my vehicle - that was the most painful of the whole thing - put me in another vehicle, and drove out of the city where a helicopter could land. They flew me to a casualty point in Iraq to stabilize me.

"That's when my heart stopped beating. I had severed an artery in my leg, and I'm bleeding out. Before they can get me, they had a firefight with the guys who realized they didn't kill us. Fortunately, the adrenaline prevented me from feeling too much pain.

"They called my wife and said 'he's not going to make it. We're going to stabilize him enough to get him to (an Army hospital in) Germany, so you can go and see him one more time before he passes away.' "

Collier's heart had stopped, but a defibrillator kicked it back to life. He had lost so much blood they almost didn't have enough on hand for him. And his wife was being called to say her husband would die.

"I had no idea this happened," he said. "I woke up two or three days later. I was in Germany when I finally woke."

Life changes

Collier's dream of reaching the Olympics actually helped him live, he believes.

"I don't smoke, I don't chew tobacco. I was training so hard and always running. I wanted to see if I had a shot to get on the U.S. (track) circuit. I contributed a lot of that to taking care of my body when I was over there. I really wanted to make the Olympics in 2012."

Eventually, all that training, the lifting and the cardio, would help land him a spot in another competition: the Power Triumph Games.

"I got involved from my Wounded Warrior advocate here in Cleveland, two days before the deadline," he said. "I'm like 'This is very last minute. What's the chances of me getting picked?' " He sent a YouTube clip promoting his story and didn't think any more of it.

"A month later I got a call from producers asking me if I wanted to be on the show," Collier said. "The rest is like history."

But Collier's excitement ebbed a bit because of his commitment to his family.

"The only thing that was nerve-wracking is that I'm a track coach, and I'm my sons' track coach," said Collier, who said his competition and his sons' nationals coincided on the calendar. "I don't miss stuff for them, I don't miss big things. That was the biggest hurdle. My wife also coaches them. I asked my sons 'Is this ok?' "

He needed "100 percent approval" from his sons to do the show. He got it.

Sports has been part of Collier's life, and his sons have taken to them as well. Collier played football, wrestled, and ran track in high school, and went to college (specializing in hurdles and sprints) on a track scholarship. He finished at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Twelve-year-old Malachi and 9-year-old Corwyn Jr. are busy earning championships in track, and even 4-year old Aaron shows promise, Collier said.

Collier met his wife Iisha when they worked at a Finish Line shoe store in Chapel Hill Mall in Akron.

"I got fired for fraternizing 'cause I was a manager and she was an employee," he said. "At least I got a wife out of it."

Collier's post-service life is spent herding his sons, teaching or working out in the home gym Iisha built for him. She was tired of him always being gone working out, so she brought the gym to him.

The workouts are paying off. In August, Collier became the first partial amputee to earn a professional card with the International Federation of Bodybuilders.

The competition's field includes four men with missing legs. Neck and spinal injuries are common. Participants served in the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Army. Many of the challenges they faced in the games are the same ones West Point cadets must complete to graduate. Taping took place this summer; participants had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose results before the show airs.

"The whole show pushes us - how we get over our fears, how we don't let injuries hold us back," he said.

While Collier pushes forward, he has not forgotten the past. On the anniversary of the explosion, he said, he and the two soldiers in his truck go on Facebook, post their service call signs, and toast the fact they are alive.