The worst sight on a football field is when a player falls to the ground and doesn’t get up. It’s sickening when they aren’t moving. As a fan, player, coach, etc you hope for even the slightest movement. Something to make you feel as if the player is going to be OK.
Earlier this season South Dakota traveled to Macomb, Ill. for a conference game against Western Illinois. In the first half right guard Sam McLeran pulled around the left side and double-teamed a linebacker as he’s done many times before. Sam fell to the ground and didn’t get up. The training staff for South Dakota rushed onto the field, joined by staffers from Western Illinois. After an on-field evaluation the ambulance was called onto the field. Sam’s dad and brother walked onto the field to be with Sam as he was strapped onto a backboard and loaded into an ambulance. Players and coaches from both teams sat on a knee, concerned for Sam’s health. Fans prayed. There was encouraging applause as Sam was lifted into the ambulance and again as the ambulance drove off the field.
In the second half many saw a helicopter fly near the field towards the hospital and eventually fly the other direction. Anyone who saw it knew that Sam was likely aboard and it just made you sick to see. There were more questions than answers and hope was all anyone had. Speculation from those around the field began during the game and continued in the moments following. Teammates sent text messages to their injured lineman to encourage his recovery effort.
The Monday following the injury the University of South Dakota issued a statement.
In the days that followed videos on social media showed Sam walking for the first time, running in a pool with a neck brace and eventually doing a side shuffle on the hard floor. All encouraging signs for anyone who knows Sam, Coyote fans everywhere, Western Illinois folks and an officiating crew who stayed in touch with USD’s administration concerned about the injury.
Then Sam showed up at Northern Iowa to watch the Coyotes for the first time since his injury and was on the sideline the entire game. Eventually Sam made his way back to the USD campus where he continues classes and has started light workouts.
I had the chance to talk to Sam about what he remembers from the incident and his recovery.
Thanks for the conversation, Sam! And all the best in your recovery!