When Westfield School basketball player Tucker Moody collapsed on the bench during a January home game and had to be revived, the furthest thought from everybody in the gym was sports.
Thanks to life-saving CPR performed by an emergency room physician on the scene and corrective open-heart surgery at Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta-Egleston, Tucker returned to competition less than a year later, playing running back for the Hornets football team in their opening game of the season against Tattnall Square Academy.
I told my kids on the first day of practice that if I was them, it would be hard to be a little bit sick, Westfield head football coach Ronnie Jones said. Hes an inspiration to us, but he should be an inspiration to anybody that plays football. Sometimes, Ill get out here and things are not going right, and then Ill see him. He inspires me, too.
Moodys collapse was brought on by a condition his father, Trey Moody, described as an anomalous left coronary artery congenital birth defect.
My aorta was in the wrong spot of my heart, and Id had it ever since I was born, but just didnt know it, Tucker Moody said.
When Moody returned home from the hospital and finally rejoined his classmates at school, he was caught off guard by just how much attention he received.
It was like I was a celebrity all of the sudden, he said with a laugh. I walk into school and everybody wanted to hug me, talk to me and ask me how I was doing.
While he was eager to get back on the football field for his junior season, his coach was understandably apprehensive.
Coaching a player who had just underwent open-heart surgery is not something Jones had dealt with in his 37 years on the sideline.
At first, when I heard about him (playing football), Im not going to lie, I was a nervous joker, Jones said. To be honest with you now, after weve been through our weight program and been through spring football, I dont even think about it anymore. He loves the game and wanted to be a part of it. The doctors cleared him, and Im so glad hes out here.
Moody, a junior, beams when he speaks about football.
(Football) is an experience like no other, he said. Being out here with all of my friends and playing football is just one of the best things ever. Words just cant explain how much I like it.
According to his coach, Moodys quick return from such a harrowing experience just shows what kind of young man he truly is.
Hes always had that kind of guts, Jones said. Hes not a big guy, but he goes hard in everything he does. Even before this happened, he was a leader. Thats just the way he is.
Contact Ryan Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.