JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The quarterback of the Hilliard Middle-Senior High School football team was rushed to a hospital after a bad hit Friday night during the season opening game against Oak Hall High School. Nathan Dowie's coach says his brain started bleeding after a bad hit in the third quarter.
"He ran it into the end zone, gave it everything he had and it just launched his body in the air," Hilliard assistant coach Byron Crews said of Nathan.
The senior quarterback got back up and finished the game.
"He hit his head on the ground and sort of flipped over," said Nathan's father, Sean Dowie. "He got back up and I thought, 'OK. He must be fine. (He) wasn't acting any different. Energetic as usual."
No one realized how serious the fall was until after the game.
"My daughter called me and said, 'Hey, the trainer wants you to come back. Something is not right," Crews said. "He started vomiting profusely, and we thought, 'OK, a concussion.' (When) we got there, he was already unconscious and started seizing."
An ambulance and athletic trainers were all still at the football field. Nathan was taken to UF Health Jacksonville, where a CT scan revealed the 18-year-old had two brain bleeds.
"It's a bad feeling as a coach, especially with a leader, (a) kid that works very hard, does everything right," Crews said. "I mean, he is an exceptional kid."
This exceptional kid is already making exceptional strides hours after brain surgery.
"He's given three thumbs up in a row," Crews said. "(A) verbal nod was fantastic. Now we're really looking for those eyes to open."
Not long after the coach gave that interview to News4Jax, Dowie's family said his son has opened his eyes.
Crews said they will celebrate Dowie's recovery more than any win on the field.
"When something like this happens, it's gut-wrenching. It puts everything in perspective. Football is on the back burner. Nothing else matters. We just want him to wake up," Crews said.
"He's a stubborn boy, and I am really glad he is been blessed with that because the stubbornness is helping us out in this situation," Dowie's uncle, Chris Latham, said. "He's a fighter and it really shows."
This small Nassau County town is wrapping their arms around Dowie. A former player has set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses, and the Red Flashes booster club is collecting donations, as well. To donate,call 904-228-3904
A Facebook post said all proceeds from Friday's 50/50 raffle will be donated to the Dowie family.
"It's hard, but we're making it," Sean Dowie said. "The community support has been awesome. It's blowing me away."