GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Wesleyan School is celebrating more than just its first home football game of the year. On Friday, the team honored one of its students who nearly died from a football-related injury.
Four years ago, William Parker was in 8th grade and suffered a traumatic brain injury after hitting his head on the turf at a game. Looking at Parker today, you would have no idea.
"For us, tonight is a celebration of the four-year journey that our team captain and undisputed team leader began back in 2016," said Franklin Pridgen, Head Football Coach at Wesleyan School.
Parker has always had a passion for football. His injury happened on September 10, 2016. Parker was rushed to emergency brain surgery. His chance of survival was small.
"I pretty much just remember waking up in the hospital," said Parker.
Four years later, Parker's story is one of triumph. He is still part of the Wesleyan football team, and his role may now be more important than ever. He serves as a team captain and helps motivate, encourage, and support his teammates.
"I am one of four team captains. I cannot physically play due to my injury, but I try to motivate and lead my teammates on the practice field," said Parker.
On the first home game of an unprecedented 2020 season, Parker's number, "23" sits at the center of the field. Parker among other team captains stood there for the coin toss.
"It's just an idea of there is nothing we can't overcome. That's what he brings," said Pridgen.
Even when Parker wasn't officially on the team, he says this has always felt like home.
"I'll be honest, I have always felt like part of the Wesleyan football team," said Parker.
"Watching William at his best every day brings the same level of positive energy makes me want to be the best coach that I can be," said Pridgen.
Parker hopes to attend college next year at the University of Georgia. He says he plans to become a doctor.
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