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August 27, 2014

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From the Press Box:

Accident serves as a lesson to all

Ray Brewer

Ray Brewer

I often take things for granted. Actually, I'm sure most of you are the same way.

It's not on purpose, just a case of not appreciating what we have.

I woke up this morning and walked to the kitchen for something to eat. Walking comes automatically — one foot in front of the next.

Until last Friday, Sept. 5, it was that way for Green Valley High senior football player LaQuan Phillips.

Phillips, 17, hasn't been able to walk since he was injured in a game against Centennial while making a tackle.

The defensive back suffered a bruised spine midway through the second quarter and was rushed to Sunrise Hospital. He lost all feeling from the neck down.

It took three days and a surgery to relieve swelling on Phillips' vertebrae to restore feeling in his fingers and toes, his coach, Matt Gerber, said.

He has yet to walk but is expected to make a full recovery, Gerber said. As of Sept. 9, Phillips was listed in fair condition, upgraded from serious.

Quarterback and team captain Nick Libonati visited Phillips the day after the incident. He stepped into the hospital room fearing the worst but was surprised to be greeted by an upbeat Phillips — the same Phillips he has played with since they started on the freshman team together three years ago.

"He told me, 'Don't quit because I'm not going to,'" Libonati said. "It puts everything into perspective and realizing what's really important in life."

What's important in life, Libonati and his teammates quickly realized, are the little things.

Playing high school football is a great experience, and when you are a teenager, the sport can feel like it's your entire world. As Phillips is learning, however, it pales in comparison to some of those simple things we take for granted.

"It was so hard seeing that happen to LaQuan," Libonati said. "That could have been anybody."

It won't be easy, but that first step for Phillips — whenever it comes — will feel better than any football victory.

It is a journey his teammates will take with him. Most teammates have visited and left letters of encouragement. They had a heartfelt message, one that I want to echo — you're in our prayers and we look forward to that first step.

"LaQuan is a really hard worker," Libonati said. "He's not the type of kid to give up. He's a great person. I miss seeing that kid (on the field) already."

Ray Brewer is the sports editor for the Home News and can be reached at [email protected] or 990-2662.

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