By Troy Shockley
Shortly after I sat down at my desk Monday, I got word that Zach Shaver, an 18-year-old Tarleton State University football player, had been seriously injured during spring scrimmage Saturday.
Located in Stephenville, Texas, Tarleton is a Division II school located just a quick trip from Abilene, where I spent much of the last 10 years. I know the city, I know the school and I know lots of the people. I quickly began to track down some folks. I wanted to know what had happened. I wanted to know how he was doing.
It seems it was nothing more than a routine football play. Zach, a defensive lineman, had gotten tangled with an offensive lineman and fell over a pile of players on the field. The redshirt freshman, participating in his first spring game and competing for a spot on the line, hit the back of his head on the turf. That’s all it took. As he tried to stand, Zach collapsed near midfield.
He was flown to a Fort Worth hospital where brain swelling forced doctors to place him in a drug-induced coma.
About 30 minutes after I’d found all of this out, I saw the breaking news story posted on the Web. Zach had died.
I know the sports editor at the newspaper in Stephenville. He was at the game and saw it happen. I went to school with Tarleton’s sports information director and he’s a friend of mine. He had to write the official press release. And I’m a dad. It gets a little dusty in the room often when I hear news like this anyway. So, while I’m not directly connected with Tarleton anymore, I still felt close enough to the story that it was like that oft-mentioned punch to the gut.
It was hard to find that switch in my brain ... to shift focus to an All-Valley team or season outlooks or the upcoming schedule of games and events for the week. It all seemed so trivial.
Late Monday night, though, I saw something that helped. Something truly good that came out of this truly awful story. Zach Shaver was an organ donor.
According to Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network data, as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, there were 106,680 waiting-list candidates on the national registry. Every 11 minutes, another name is added.
Research has shown that 90 percent of Americans say they support donation, yet 2008 marked the first time in 20 years that there was a decline in the number of deceased donors used for transplants. Living donors, too, in 2008 were at their lowest numbers since 2001.
In 2009, there were a total of 14,631 donors and 28,464 total transplants. That’s a lot of people and a lot of lives saved. But an estimated 12,000 people who die each year meet the criteria for organ donation and less than half become actual donors. Meanwhile, an average of 18 people die while waiting for a transplant of a vital organ like a heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, lung or bone marrow.
The numbers are staggering, really. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t be better. As young as he was, Zach knew that. And he likely saved many lives. A single donor can save up to eight people; through tissue donation, the lives of up to 50 can be enhanced. What a truly remarkable gift.
Considering it takes about five minutes to sign up on the donor registry — for those in Oregon, go to www.donatelifenw.org — shouldn’t we all follow Zach’s example?
Make it happen. And make that glimmer of good glow just a little bit brighter as a result.
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Williams headed to A&M-Commerce
Godley’s Jake Williams signed to extend his football career at Texas A&M-Commerce on Tuesday at Godley High School.
The two-time All Johnson County defensive player of the year said everything about the campus intrigued him.
“I went down there and looked at the campus and talked to the coaches,” Williams said. “I liked everything I saw and the whole time I was down there I thought it was really nice.”
Playing in the Lone Star Conference with emerging programs such as Abilene Christian University and West Texas A&M will be a challenge Williams said he’ll enjoy.
“I knew they were going to be playing some big schools,” Williams said. “That’s the kind of thing I wanted to be doing. I want to be competitive and go somewhere where I knew I could compete and play some schools that would be challenging.”
The Angelo State University football team will wrap up two and a half weeks of spring drills today at 4 p.m. with a scrimmage at the practice field adjacent to the LeGrand Sports Complex.
The Rams began spring practice on March 4 and had six practices before taking a week off for spring break. They picked back up on March 22 and had a full week of practices that culminated with a scrimmage on March 27.
They will complete spring workouts tonight with their second scrimmage.