Regardless of the level of competition, critical injuries are every football coach's worst nightmare. The news that Navy football player Will McKamey had died Tuesday night, after collapsing during spring practice last Saturday, hit home with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga staff.
McKamey had worked out at one of UTC's summer camps prior to his senior season at Knoxville's Grace Christian Academy in 2012.
"We knew Will and of course his dad (Grace Christian head coach Randy McKamey)," UTC coach Russ Huesman said after the Mocs' two-plus hour practice Wednesday evening. "I don't know what happened there. I just know it's a tragedy, and I feel so bad for the family.
"Obviously with the concussion stuff, and from what I understand he had gotten hurt before with a head injury, that's a scary deal. That's always scary."
McKamey had suffered a head injury in Grace Christian's 2012 game at South Pittsburg and was hospitalized at Erlanger for several days.
Last Saturday McKamey collapsed during practice and was immediately airlifted to the nearest hospital, Baltimore Shock Trauma, where he underwent emergency surgery in an attempt to clear a blood clot. He had remained in a coma since the surgery.
In a statement, his family said that McKamey did not sustain a "bad hit or unusual or extreme contact in practice Saturday" and that he had been cleared to return to the field after seeing four neurosurgeons and undergoing several CAT scans and MRI exams.
Concussions have been a hot-button topic for football at all levels for several years and Huesman said that it is UTC protocol that any player showing signs of a head injury has to be cleared by the team's medical staff before returning to a game or practice.
"It's all on our medical staff," Huesman said. "They've got the call, and if they feel like there's anything there they take them out of practice or games. There's no question about that. We don't have a say in it as coaches. We're obligated if we see something that isn't right to send them over to the medical staff and our coaches do a great job of that. It's not worth it.
"I'm sure every coach follows similar procedure. The scary thing was that they said he didn't take that big a hit. It's really just sad."
• The Mocs will hold their first scrimmage Friday, shifting practice from Scrappy Moore Field to Finley Stadium, and beginning at 4 p.m.
"I think it's a chance to put the ball down and see these kids play. See what some of these young kids can do at certain positions. Let them compete and make plays, and that's what it's about. It's not about offense vs. defense. Every snap they get, whether its a scrimmage or one-on-one scenario, it's a chance to compete and get better technique-wise."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.