Football player hurt last Thanksgiving back on field

Matt Blea suffered a head injury after being struck by another player during San Jose's "Big Bone" championship game Thanksgiving Day.

November 25, 2010 8:52:19 PM PST
Matt Blea was out on the field at the annual Big Bone Game rivalry between San Jose Academy and Lincoln High today but he didn't don a helmet or pads. Still wearing his familiar jersey with the number 21, the 17-year-old San Jose Academy senior was on the sidelines as the honorary captain of his team.

Blea suffered a serious brain injury and was in critical condition when he collided with another player and collapsed during the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game last year. He spent 23 days at a hospital in intensive care, eight of those days in an induced coma.

The All League running back underwent brain surgery and two other procedures during his stay. Blea finished his therapy this summer and looks physically fit. However, he told ABC7 News he still has some short-term memory loss and only has 50 percent of his vision in his right eye.

The star player showed no signs of his physical limitations today at the game as he gave advice to his teammates in his new role as a "student coach." Blea also worked the game as a ball boy and he did all of this with pride and passion.

"The experience actually turned into a positive thing," he said. "Before my injury, I had no direction, didn't know what I would do after high school, but I now know I want to be a teacher or firefighter. That's my goal in life."

"I'm so proud of my son," said his father David, "Matt never gave up hope and was always positive during those really tough days after he got hurt."

Matt's injury also took a toll on his father who was a defensive coach for the San Jose Bulldogs. He was there the day his son got hurt. David decided to take a leave from his coaching this year.

"I just kept thinking of that day every time I got on the field and after a while, I just couldn't bear to keep going through that over and over again," he said.

Blea says he is going to enroll in City College when he graduates this summer. In the meantime, he was as intensive as ever on the sidelines today. His team was taking a shellacking. At halftime, the score was 35-0 Lincoln. Matt's reaction?

"I can't say for now. I have to take a look at the films after the game. But, we got to do better. That's for sure."

Stated just like a coach.