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BLOOMINGTON -- Emotion hit Isaac Griffith harder than any linebacker ever has.
Can you blame him?
Griffith was alive and healthy and facing an all-things-are-possible future. He can have a successful Indiana football receiving career. He can live the life he wants without any limitations.
“I don't take anything for granted now,” Griffith said. “I go every day to be with my team. I wake up every day and thank God for waking me up.
His eyes filled. His lips quivered. His voice broke until he had to stop.
“I'm sorry,” he said.
On a sun-kissed Saturday afternoon, three weeks after nearly drowning off a Florida beach, the former Homestead standout faced a Memorial Stadium press conference with nothing to be sorry about and everything to be thankful for.
Beyond the help from a Higher Power and the medical staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Hoosier teammates Nick Stoner and Ty Smith, plus fellow IU student Mitch McCune, had made this day possible. McCune pulled an unconscious Griffith back to the beach after a rip tide had sucked them out from the shore.
Stoner and Smith, who also had been swimming during this spring break trip, had made it back to shore. When they saw Griffith was in trouble, they raced back into the water to help, which is what you're not supposed to do in rip tide conditions.
“At that time, I wasn't thinking about that,” Smith said. “He's my best friend. Once I figured out he was in danger, the last thing on my mind was myself. I wanted to make sure he was OK.”
Upon reaching shore, McCune and Smith performed CPR on Griffith while Stoner, a sprinter, raced 500 meters to a nearby condo to call 911 and get help.
“What they've done for me to get my life back,” Griffith said. “These guys are my brothers. I love them to death. If I had to take three warriors into battle, I'd choose them every time.”
Griffith's parents, Shannon and Kim, were just as emotional. Kim had taken Smith's call on that Monday evening about the accident and relayed it to Shannon, a call so painful, Shannon said, “that it dropped me to my knees.”
They rushed to get a flight to Florida, not knowing what they'd find when they arrived. What they found was their son in a medically induced coma to allow his salt-water-filled lungs to heal. They knew what would have happened without Smith, Stoner and McCune.
“The courage and reaction that was shown, all the things that were done right, it blows me away as a parent,” said Shannon Griffith, the Manchester College head football coach. “How they reacted to the situation … they are fine young men who will forever be part of our family. We're looking forward to seeing these guys playing the game.”
For the record, that will be Aug. 30 when IU hosts Indiana State. Griffith, a freshman who redshirted last season, said he expects to be ready for that game, and the season.
“I'll be ready to get back when I can,” Griffith said. “I won't push it. I'll let the doctors and trainers and coaches tell me when I can get back. They'll monitor me in the summer. I'll be at full health by fall camp.”