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Wharton High football player awakens from coma

Tribune staff
Published: October 18, 2013 Updated: October 18, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Wharton High staff and players wore T-shirts supporting injured player Sean McNamee during Friday's game against Alonzo. McNamee, who has been in a medically induced coma, nods his head and squeezes family members hands, his grandfather said.

TAMPA — The condition of Wharton High School football player Sean McNamee, who has been in a medically induced coma since for more than a week, took a positive turn today.

Sean’s father, Todd McNamee, said his son is off the respirator and breathing on his own.

“I waited nine days for this moment,’’ Todd McNamee said. “So many people have prayed for and loved my son. We are blessed ... The community support has been overwhelming and has given us strength.’’

McNamee’s grandfather, Doug McNamee, said the junior nodded his head to signal yes and no and squeezed hands with some of his family members upon request.

Wharton football coach David Mitchell heard the news from the school’s administration today.

“Sean’s a part of this team and we’re praying for him,” Mitchell said.

On Oct. 9, McNamee hit his head on a paint machine that was on the football field before practice. Hillsborough County Schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said McNamee was escorted off the field to see a trainer on site, and the trainer called McNamee’s family.

Doug McNamee said the left side of Sean McNamee’s skull was severely injured.

“He has an amazingly long road ahead of him,” he said.

The injury is being investigated by the school district and Yerrid Law, a Tampa law firm hired by the family.

“The prayers of many have been heard and today, Sean emerged from his coma,” Yerrid Law firm said in a prepared statement. The law firm added it has requested copies of footage from the football field and said school board attorneys have agreed to provide the videos.

The law firm went on to say in the statement that attorneys are having difficulty obtaining statements from some of the eyewitnesses of the accident.

“We have interviewed a number of Sean’s teammates, many of them eyewitnesses to critically important events of that day. Unfortunately, some of these young men and their families have expressed a reluctance to come forward because they fear recrimination, loss of playing time, or other concerns that are making them hesitant to tell us what occurred. I can only urge those with information to step forward with the truth. I assure everyone that we will deal quickly and decisively with anyone who attempts to penalize or in other way silence the witnesses to this tragedy. I am certain the school board and its attorneys will assist us in seeing to it that all the facts are made known regarding the events of that day.”

Hegarty said no one should be afraid to speak to others about the incident.

“None of Sean’s teammates have any reason to fear recrimination for anything they say,’’ Hegarty said. “Several have been speaking to the media. The district has been heartened to see the outpouring of concern and support from Sean’s teammates.’’

At a recent prayer vigil for Sean, Doug McNamee said many members of the community have come forth since the accident to express their love and affection for Sean.

“He’s so funny,” he said. “He’s one of those guys who’s carefree. He’s brought a lot of joy to a lot of people.”

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