PRESCOTT — A browse through Matthew McCarthy’s YouTube channel reveals an active young filmmaker who enjoys travel, animals and reviewing Starbucks drinks.

For every thrilling first-person mountain bike ride or St. Croix River tubing video he uploads, there’s a story of perseverance and aspiration playing out behind the scenes.

McCarthy is the leading man in a real-life success story, but it was almost a tragedy.

It was May 13, 2005, and a 9-year-old McCarthy was riding with his family on Highway 35. Suddenly a pickup truck speeding at 90 mph lost control, crossed the center line and slammed into them.

McCarthy sustained a traumatic brain injury and broken femur in the crash. He was rushed to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in the Twin Cities to undergo surgery, including having a section of skull removed to allow his brain to swell. He would remain in hospital for weeks before his condition started to improve.

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“It’s not like the movies when you come out of a coma,” said his father, Kevin McCarthy. “I always described it as two steps forward, one step back.”

As the years passed, stepping turned to running, and Matthew McCarthy excelled at cross country and track. He went on to compete and letter at the varsity level.

He kept on rolling after graduating from Prescott High School and earned an associate’s degree from Dakota County Technical College. Now the 24-year-old is taking classes at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with the goal of breaking into video production and, maybe one day, moving out to California.

McCarthy said he got a taste of California life on a recent vacation. A video he produced documenting the adventure — including catching some waves at the famous Long Beach area in southern California — is among his favorite on his YouTube channel.

“I was proud of it because I made it mostly close to the shore, then at the end I smashed the shore and landed on my feet,” he said of a successful surfing attempt.

McCarthy said he enjoys filming events using equipment ranging from a GoPro sports action camera to a more robust Canon Rebel EOS T6 digital camera with multiple lens options.

He’s mostly self taught with the help of how-to videos on YouTube, but said he is looking forward to learning more about filmmaking at UWRF.

It has been a few weeks since his last upload, in part because so many area events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but McCarthy said he’s focused on growing his 500-plus YouTube subscribers.

His channel is at