It’s difficult for Grace Christian Academy Coach Randy McKamey to remember a time when football was not a key part of his life.
He grew up in the shadows of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium, playing for his hometown Clinton High School, then furthered his education and playing career while proudly wearing the Orange and White uniform of the Tennessee Vols.
He was truly living a dream that literally thousands of young men share on Friday nights in the fall.
For nearly 20 years now, he’s coached the sport that has meant so much to him.
The last six years, he’s been the head coach at Knoxville Grace, watching his son Will, a potential Mr. Football candidate, mature into one of the top players in the state.
Just days earlier, the talented athlete received a scholarship offer to play for the Naval Academy. It was an incredibly proud moment for everyone in the McKamey family.
But a couple of Friday nights ago, the game that has meant so much to the McKameys nearly took Will’s life.
In the regular season finale at South Pittsburg, young McKamey suffered a serious brain injury and was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.
One moment, everything was fine.
Will McKamey had just scored a touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion. But after trotting off the field, he collapsed into the arms of Grace’s athletic director on the sideline.
“I had no idea that Will was hurt,” recanted the coach a few days after the incident.
Seconds later, McKamey’s wife Kara was tugging at her husband’s arm, letting him know their son “was in trouble.”
Unconscious and flirting with death, young McKamey had suffered a serious brain bleed.
“As we raced down I-24 towards Chattanooga to meet our son at the hospital, I prayed like I’d never prayed before,” Coach McKamey said. “It was then that the reality of it all finally set it, that I might not see my son alive again."
Will’s condition was touch and go for a while.
Brain scans were initially made every four hours and literally thousands of prayers were lifted up on his behalf as word about the seriousness of his injury spread like wildfire across the state.
But almost miraculously, Will McKamey’s condition began to dramatically improve.
Doctors at Erlanger were baffled. What they were seeing on the brain scans did not match the condition and actions of their patient.
By Monday afternoon, less than 72 hours after he was flown from South Pittsburg to Erlanger, doctors announced he could go home on Tuesday.
Young McKamey, an honor student, will likely be back in the classroom on a limited basis this week.
Whether or not he’ll be back on the field in uniform is still up in the air.
Doctors are projecting, however, that he should make a full recovery, enough to honor his scholarship offer at Navy.
But for now, those closest to the McKamey family are just thankful for answered prayers and miracles. And that’s the way it should be.
Murphy Fair has published Tennessee High School Football for 25 years. His website (murphyfair.com) gives high school fans further insight into the prep football scene.