THOMASTON, Ga. - On the morning of July 7, Upson-Lee head football coach Tommy Parks took a walk with his wife Carmen before the family was supposed to leave for a beach vacation. After their walk, Tommy walked into the dining room and collapsed on the floor in cardiac arrest. Carmen quickly administered over 300 chest compressions before help arrived. Tommy Parks was life-flighted to Macon where it was determined he had a 100 percent blockage of an anterior artery known as the "Widow Maker".
"It was a devastating blow, really emotional." said current Knights head coach Justin Elder, "We weren't sure if he was going to make it at all."
Parks survived the trauma, but due to oxygen loss to his brain, he's still recovering-gradually getting his faculties back while undergoing therapy at Shepherd Center.
"Doctors feel good that there will be a lot of Tommy back...maybe not 100%. He can talk a little bit now, but it's hard to communicate with him. He's got a long way to go. He's walking and talking some." said Elder, "The power of prayer has done a lot.
Parks coached the Knights to a 23-11 record over the past four seasons, making the playoffs twice. For now, Elder's interim head coaching label has been removed as Upson-Lee moves forward, with their ailing leader ever on their minds.
"Nobody wants to let him down." Elder continued, "If he gets right, I'm gonna be the first one he cusses out."
Upson-Lee hosts Griffin tonight in a key early season matchup that will test the undefeated Knights. Last year they came into the game with Griffin with a 2-0 record and were embarrassed 53-7.
"It's a great measuring stick for us. Our D-Line is our strength and we're better offensively than we were last year." Elder told High 5 Sports.
Led by four-star defensive tackle Travon Walker, the Knights hope to put pressure on Griffin's spread offense---something they couldn't do last year.
A large crowd is expected and many of them will be wearing #TPStrong shirts in honor of Tommy Parks. The shirts are being sold on campus and on the TPStrong Facebook page dedicated to updating Parks' condition. All proceeds go to help cover the family's expenses. High 5 Sports will cover tonight's game and have highlights at 11 o'clock and online.