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Last Thing on His Mind

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Last Thing on His Mind

Sydney Brown and Kyler Hensley, Writer and Sports Editor

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It was homecoming night in the small town of Clinton, Arkansas. The undefeated Clinton Yellowjackets were preparing to take the field against the stiffest conference competition of the year, the Melbourne Bearcats. When the team broke through the tunnel, and onto the field with their fans going crazy… everyone was prepared for battle, but no one was prepared to fight for their lives. The last thing on those hometown high school heroes minds was death. Midway through the game #26, Caleb Bowman, found himself fighting every breath for life.

I was able to sit down with Caleb to talk to him about football, and the night of his collapse. I was trying to find out just what happened mentally and physically to him that night, and to share his story with others, so they might learn from his experience.  I started out by asking him some easy questions, “What made you want to play football?”  His replies were perfect, Caleb stated back, “My mother told me that I should play football to get out my extra energy.  It has been character building for me. I have played the game of football since I was five years old. It has taught me many life lessons like how to handle both winning and losing. I continue to play football because I have developed a love for the game that has come from my experiences, and the bonds I have formed from it.”

“What do you remember from that day, Homecoming Day?”  I asked.  “I woke up in the morning really nauseous, but I finally ate around three o’clock in the afternoon.  I thought that I was just nervous about walking sophomore maid, Sydney Brown, at the Clinton High School Homecoming Procession. Right before the game, I was in warm-ups, and I could not catch my breath. I went in the locker room almost hyperventilating. I thought the pads were too tight, so I loosened my pads. My breathing was like trying to touch the rim of a basketball goal; it was just out of reach. I could not catch my breath. As we were running out everyone around me was getting pumped up since it was such an exciting game. I just couldn’t find the strength to get pumped. As we went into kickoff I felt very winded.  About midway through the first quarter I ran for a 13 yard touchdown. As I got up in the end zone my feet trembled, and I just shook.  Later throughout the game, I was just fatigued and not playing up to my standards.  When we went into halftime, I was trying to focus on my breathing. By this time, I knew something was wrong.  I reached out to the team doctor, Dr. Coward, and told him how I was feeling.  He said he would go and get his inhaler out of his truck. By the time he returned, I had started to play the tuba for the halftime show. I felt light headed, as if I could fall down at any minute. By then the team came out of the locker room, and the 3rd quarter proceeded.  We ran a formation where I would line up on the outside and block down. We did this same play three times, and by the second time I could hardly stand. I was wheezing as if someone had placed a rock on my chest. I had to cling to our right tackle, Kelly Collins, for support. I am the type of player that will put in all the effort I can for every play, and that is exactly what I did.  As I stood up after the play, my knees wobbled, and I started a slow sort of hyperventilation.  I saw Dr. Coward on the sideline, and it took everything I had to get to him.  By the time I got to him, I fell to my knees, and everything went blurry.”

“Would you do anything differently knowing what you know now?” I asked.  “No, I would not change anything knowing what it caused; bringing our community together and improving our medical care to athletes. I personally believe everything happens for a reason, and it might have been very scary for myself and others but I believe it was a wake up call for our community,” Caleb stated.

“How did you feel about the attention the incident garnered statewide?”  I prompted.  “I personally did not like all the attention, because through everything that happened I think the news getting involved just caused more drama.  I do appreciate everyone’s efforts to help our medical care and for their support. I felt embarrassed at times because I didn’t want to be treated any different after the incident. At a certain point, I was against the news getting involved, but if the public is informed and is aware maybe it will save someone else in the future,”  Caleb stated.

I followed up with, “What do you hope other players take from this?”  Caleb responded, “I hope other players will notice when it is time to sit out and get help.  I knew something was wrong, but I still felt obligated to my team. I know now that a game is not worth my life. I would encourage any other athletes to take notice of medical issues with their body and get help immediately.”  

“Do you see life differently now,” I asked. Caleb quickly responded, “Yes I do. Prior to this experience I had never been seriously hurt. I guess I thought I was invincible, that bad things wouldn’t happen to me.  After this experience, it caused me to look at life differently and think about what would have happened if I had not made it.  It was one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me and through that it really tested my faith and opened my eyes a little more to how important my faith is.  When you are that close to dying, it makes you think about what you do, how you would be remembered, and how you would affect people if you were not in this world anymore.”   

When asked how he would describe his relationship to his team/teammates.  Caleb compared the team to a family.  “Our team is like a family. All of the challenges that we face made us become closer. I trust them with my life. They came through for me when I needed them most. They showed so much support. Almost every teammate came to the hospital to see me. It helps me to feel safe knowing my team, my family, has my back,” stated Caleb.  

“What are the most important lessons football has taught you,”  I asked.

“Football has taught me how to keep pushing forward rather than dwelling on a loss. If you are a true competitor, then you will learn from a loss. You never want to feel that way again so you will work hard enough where you don’t have to, “ Caleb exclaimed.  

I thanked Caleb for letting me take his time and walked away amazed at the character of the 3A- All state linebacker portrayed to me today. Caleb Bowman wasn’t prepared to fight for his life that night, but he would again if it helped others. That is the raw truth and character of Caleb Bowman.

http://www.arkansasmatters.com/news/local-news/clinton-fans-question-paramedic-response-to-unresponsive-athlete/830645886

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