Concord Spiders’ Pruette has worked hard to get back out on the field
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Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

Concord Spiders’ Pruette has worked hard to get back out on the field

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- COURTESY GRAHAM PRUETTE
Concord High quarterback Graham Pruette with “the bell” that goes to the winner of the annual Concord-A.L. Brown game.

Concord High senior quarterback Graham Pruette can’t remember the hit.

He’s seen pictures, but the play that nearly ended his football career, along with the subsequent four hours, just aren’t there.

It was the Spiders’ second game of the season, against Mount Pleasant at home on Aug. 30. There was a fumble at the line of scrimmage, and without hesitation Pruette dove on top of the football.

Additional players on both teams also went diving after the ball. In the confusion, a helmet struck Pruette hard on the spine.

“There’s this big pile, and everyone’s getting up except Graham, who is lying face down,” Concord football coach Glen Padgett said. “It was quite a concern for us. Luckily we’ve got great trainers and an excellent medical staff, and they got him out of there and to the hospital.”

Pruette was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center–Main in Charlotte, where a surgeon would be nearby if something needed to be done quickly.

“The first memory I have is probably the scariest thing you could imagine,” Pruette said. “I was strapped to a board, being pulled off of a helicopter in downtown Charlotte. I had no idea who I was with. I knew I was in a lot of pain, but I didn’t know why or what had happened to me.”

At CMC-Main, it was determined that Pruette had suffered a bruised spine and would not require surgery.

He would, however, need extensive occupational therapy.

“I had to relearn everything,” he said. “I went from trying to wiggle my toes to trying to walk a little. I had to learn to roll over in the bed and to sit up. Just trying to reach down and put my socks on again was a struggle.”

But through it all, Pruette was amazed at the outpouring of support.

Friends and family made sure Pruette was never alone at the hospital, while calls and messages of support and prayer came almost by the minute.

The local hospital that Pruette was first taken to before being airlifted to CMC-Main struggled to fit the 50-plus people that arrived to check up on him following the game.

Concord High School sold tee-shirts with Pruette’s No. 11 printed on the front to help raise money to play for his medical care. The Pruette’s house received regular food deliveries, sometimes from complete strangers who wanted to help in any way they could.

“The support has been incredible,” Pruette said. “Pictures that I’ve seen from just after the injury show both teams praying while I was on the ground. I hated that it had to be that way, but it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Through the pain and the long hours of therapy, it was the goal of returning to the field that kept Pruette motivated.

“Football was the reason that I was able to get back,” he said. “I had that prize out there in front of me, and I knew I wanted to get back out there. That was really my motivation to do it all.

“Had it been any other season, I might have said, ‘You know what, I’ll take it easy and recover and be ready for next year.’ But with this being my senior season – something I’ve been looking forward to for four years – I knew I wanted to come back.”

Just four weeks after the injury, Pruette’s condition had improved to the point that doctors were able to clear him to return to action.

Pruette calls it a blessing that he can’t remember the injury.

“Everyone was worried and asking me if I wanted to come back and asking if, mentally, I was going to be OK,” he said. “But having no memory of it, I wasn’t nervous or scared about it at all. I was actually really excited.”

Although he took only few snaps under center in the game, the Spiders – who remained undefeated in his absence, and were headed into their Nov. 8 regular-season finale against Garinger with a 10-0 record – went on to win in thrilling fashion, 63-50, over Central Cabarrus on Oct. 4.

“The first time I went back out there, the students started chanting my name, and everyone in the crowd stood up and clapped and cheered for me,” Pruette said. “It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

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Seth Lakso is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Seth? Email him at at sethlakso@gmail.com

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