Next, imagine that thing, person, place or hobby being taken away from you, for LIFE. How would you cope? Could you handle it? How would you react?
That's exactly what Webb School senior QB Blake Beeler was staring in the face not but three short weeks ago. When a young man plays sports and has youth on his side, there's often a feeling of invulnerability. Beeler would find out just how paper thin that level of invincibility really is.
It was the second quarter of the Spartans game against Harding Academy in Memphis in Week 4 and Webb was on top 14-13. Beeler was playing cover 2 corner as Harding came to line on offense.
When the ball was snapped, Beeler came off the Harding receiver's block and went after the ball carrier. As he did, the running back's knee struck the side of Beeler's neck and the lights went out.
The next thing that he clearly remembered was lying in the back of the ambulance, talking to the paramedics. The whole left side of his body numb. One second a senior leader of a powerful East Tennessee high school football team. The next second he was an invalid, riding in an ambulance towards an uncertain future.
He would spend every second of the next several hours strapped to an immobilization board in the emergency room at the local hospital, unable to move.
Throughout the night, Beeler had x rays and cat scans. When the MRI test results came back, the doctor said that he was extremely lucky to not be paralyzed.
Next, Beeler was told what no athlete ever wants to hear: that he might never play football again. "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to hear in my life", Beeler would recollect later.
Finally, Blake would be admitted to the hospital around 7 am the next morning and another MRI was ordered for the following day. To the Beeler family's great pleasure, the results were much better than the first.
Beeler would in fact be able to play again. "I was in shock, because I went from never playing football again to be able to play in a few weeks", he said.
Blake would eventually return home to Knoxville to be greeted by his coaches and his fellow senior team leaders. It wouldn't be where the wild ride would end, however.
Beeler would find out the following week that while unconscious, he had aspirated, which meant objects from his stomach had flowed up and back down through his lungs. The result: pneumonia.
Thankfully, the story has a wonderful ending. Having an open date and two weeks to prepare for their next game meant Beeler would have extra time to heal. Unbelievably, he is expected to play in Friday's game vs. arch rival Knox Catholic.
TN Prep Sports sat down with this very lucky young athlete to discuss his new found fortune, his future and the future of the 2006 Webb Spartans.
TPS: That you're up and walking around, much less running and throwing, with no ill effects after all you've been through is a small miracle. What have you learned from the experience?
Blake: As cliché and corny as it is, I have learned to not take football for granted. I think every player complains about practice sometimes because I know I did, but I try not to do that anymore. Every practice I try to be absolutely thrilled to be there.
TPS: Webb has beaten some tough teams this year like Know West and Powell. The Spartans haven't been as lucky in region games though. How does the team plan to turn that around?
Blake: I think the main thing is to be able to execute what we are trying to do every game, no matter who we play. We see different styles of play when we play teams from our region and we have had some trouble adjusting, but we will turn it around.
Although region games are in fact more important than playing teams such as Powell and West, we tend to get "up" more when we play local teams because we get to show Knoxville that we can compete with the best public schools in the area.
TPS: Your win against BGA in Week 5 was a nice step forward. Was that a weight lifted off the teams shoulders?
Blake: Friday was a great win because now we are that much closer to the playoffs. The win brought more of a sense of urgency for our future region games. Even though I did not play in this game, Zack Dickson did a great job stepping up and leading the offense to 28 points. Since my injury, all of the seniors have shown great leadership.
TPS: The Spartans are averaging almost 23 points per game. What have been the keys to success in the games you've won? What was missing in the two regional losses?
Blake: Well, in the games we have won I think we have controlled the clock by establishing long drives with a big play here and there too (which is what the wing-t offense is supposed to do). In our two losses, I think the offense has played well enough to win; we just have to adjust better on defense.
TPS: You all have been real road warriors and will continue to be, with only two homes games left towards the end of the season. What kind of toll does this take on the team? Have you looked forward to the chance to go into the opposition's stadium and beat them at home?
Blake: It certainly is hard to play as many away games as we do, but I think it makes us enjoy our home games that much more so we don't really have a problem with it. It is always nice to go into someone's house and win, plus I like playing sometimes when everyone is cheering against you. Being a private school, we have just had to get used to it.
TPS: Looking ahead, it's Catholic Week already! Tell us a little bit about how special this rivalry is to the Spartans and to be a part of…
Blake: When I came to Webb in eighth grade all I heard about was Webb-Catholic. This rivalry certainly lives up to its hype and it is definitely my favorite game of the year. This is most definitely the best rivalry in Knoxville.
TPS: At 0-4 since 2001, the series with Catholic hasn't been to kind to Webb lately. What will it take from this Spartan Squad to turn the tables? Last years game was a nail biting 14-12 slug fest. Do you see this year's game ending up as close?
Blake: It is going to take a great deal of emotion and execution to turn the tables against one of the best teams in the state. Catholic is a great football team. I see this game ending up as close but I believe it could be either high or low scoring.
We are also going to have to replace Chad Manning, who was injured in our last game and is now out for the season. He was the hardest worker on our team and was really the inspiration to always work hard.
This is the third straight year that he has been hurt and second year that he has been out all season or at least the remainder of this season. He will never be able to play football again but I can guarantee you that he will work harder than ever to get ready for wrestling and baseball. I think he will be state champ in wrestling. Chad we love you man.
TPS: You get to go head to head with arguably the best safety in East Tennessee in Harrison Smith. Are you looking forward to that challenge? What will it take from you to make him a non factor in the game?
Blake: It's always great to play against one of the best players around, and it is going to take a great scheme on defense and great decisions on offense to keep his impact minimal.
Playing one of the toughest schedules in the state the last few years, we have had the opportunity to play against a lot of the best players in the state. These include Ryan Karl, B.J. Coleman, Courtney Braswell, Kevin Cooper, Dustin Lindsey, Brandon Warren, Jacques McClendon, Kyrus Lanxter, Patrick Turner, Adarius Bowman, and Golden Tate.
Harrison Smith is definitely a part of this list. Last year, he basically took one side of the field away from our offense. I think we will have to do a better job of blocking him instead of running away from him.
TPS: Can Webb go 3-2 in region from here on out? What will the team need to focus on from now till the end to assure that?
Blake: Webb can definitely go 3-2 in region from here on out, but only if we focus on executing our plan on defense and play mistake free on offense. We are 1-2 now and we have to beat St. Benedict to make the playoffs.
TPS: If you could be any athlete or Hollywood celeb, who would it be and why?
Blake: No doubt about it, Tiger Woods. First of all, he is one of the most famous athletes ever and he makes 80 million a year. All he does is ride in a golf-cart, swing a club, and make money.
TPS: What does the future hold for Blake Beeler? What's the college plans? Anyone you're leaning towards?
Blake: I am definitely going to play football somewhere but I am not sure as to where yet. I visited Carson Newman two weekends ago and Wofford last weekend and I really enjoyed both visits. I am going to Samford this weekend.
I told my dad in eighth grade that I wanted to play college football and it feels good to realize that it is in reach. Harvard, Samford, and Wofford have shown the most interest so far so I guess we will just have to wait and see.
The Real Deal: QB Blake Beeler
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