Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 11/4

Jim Bradford

By PrepsKC Staff Writer Jim Bradford
Posted: November 4, 2010 - 9:18 PM

Spring Hill and Osawatomie combined to score 171 points last Thursday night. Yep, 171 points. In a football game. But that was the last thing on anyone’s mind Friday morning.


Everything that happened on the football field Thursday night means absolutely nothing.


Thoughts in Spring Hill are on the family of Nathan Stiles. The homecoming king and All-American kid died early Friday morning after collapsing on the sidelines Thursday night just before halftime.


There are no answers right now. No one knows why this perfectly fit athlete became unconscious after taking a hit after an interception Thursday night. He was air lifted to the hospital, but never regained consciousness.


There will be time to figure out what happened later, but now is the time to remember a life lost. Now is the time to keep the family and friends of Stiles in your thoughts and prayers.


The entire close-knit community of Spring Hill is in mourning over the loss of one of their own.


Football is a violent game. Everyone who puts on shoulder pads and a helmet knows that. Everyone who loves those who put on shoulder pads and a helmet knows the risks, but the thousands and thousands of scenarios that go through your head, this is not one of them. A broken leg. A broken arm, maybe. Or even a concussion, but not this. Never this. Not with someone so young, so healthy.


Before collapsing on the sidelines, Stiles had scored a pair of touchdowns — one from 65 yards out and another from 18 — and had just picked off a pass. The tackle was just like any other tackle anyone had ever seen in countless games all across the metro area on any given Thursday or Friday night this fall.


It’s not supposed to happen like this.


Stiles was supposed to be getting ready for his 18th birthday this past Tuesday.


Instead, everyone in Spring Hill attended a funeral. Sad. Terribly sad.


The rest of the metro area gets ready for the playoffs with heavy hearts. Sure, there are rivals on the football field, but rivalries, scores and stats are painfully irrelevant.


Stiles’ death comes in the wake of renewed talk about the safety of football. Hard hits. Leading with the helmet. Players more concerned with the hit, rather than the tackle.


Let’s not lump Stiles’ death into that conversation. Let’s not let Stiles’ death be a statistic.


Stiles did it right, just like hundreds and hundreds of high school football players. He did it right. Spring Hill did it right. Even though he suffered a concussion on Oct. 1, he was cleared to play. There’s no fault here.


Maybe more important than everything that Stiles did on the football field is what he did off of the field.


Football didn’t define him. It was what he did, not who he was. Ask anyone who knew him, but make sure you have a few minutes because they are likely to be talking for a while. The superlatives run out early when friends and family talk about Stiles.


A pretty darn good football player and an even better person, gone way too soon.