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Posted on Mon. Apr. 07, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

COLUMN

For Griffiths and Indiana, it's time for thanks

Mom can't wait to see him play again

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BLOOMINGTON -- Let other mothers cower in protective fear. Kim Griffith can't wait.

The time will come this fall when son Isaac will run onto the football field as an Indiana Hoosier and she will be there, husband Shannon will be there (as long as his Manchester College football coach job allows), and it will be first-Christmas good.

“I am so thankful and anxious to see him play,” she says. “He's been playing since he was 3. He has a gift and he knows how to use it.”

That gift once made Isaac a record-breaking Homestead High School receiver. He redshirted last season as an Indiana freshman, but impressed enough to twice earn scout team player of the week honors.

That isn't why Kim is thankful.

Her son has learned a frightening lesson. They all have. Mother nature, in the form of a rip tide off a Sarasota, Fla., beach, can be unforgiving. Isaac survived thanks to good fitness, good friends, good medical care, good luck and, the family believes, a Higher Power.

“Miraculous,” Kim says.

Yes, Isaac says, the near-death experience has changed him.

“I won't ever take anything for granted again. When people start complaining that football practice is bad, that this sucks, well, it doesn't. I almost had something taken from me that I love. I don't ever want to be put in that situation again.”

Isaac's parents didn't choose his name by whim 19 years ago. This is a family of deep Christian faith, and the biblical Isaac was born in “miracle” circumstances when his mother, Sarah, was 90 and his father, Abraham, was 100. Kim and Shannon aren't anywhere near those ages, but the miracle impression resonates given Isaac's rapid recovery from nearly drowning, and from the pneumonia caused when salt water filled his lungs.

“The doctor told us that rip tides take down the strongest people every day,” Shannon says. “He said, be thankful your boy will walk out of here.”

Three weeks after the accident and Isaac is well past the walking stage. He jogs and lifts weights lightly. He plays catch after spring practice with quarterback Tre Roberson. He is not close to being football ready, and there is no rush. He will fight his nature and go slow. He insists he will listen to doctors and coaches and trainers and not try to, say, run a six-minute mile when seven is the right thing to do.

“I can jog at a normal pace for 30 minutes,” he says. “In the weight room I do a lot of high reps with low weights. I don't want to put too much strain on my body. I have to rebuild.

“It's like I have a restart button. I'm going back to the beginning and build up.”

The plan is to participate in team summer workouts, be ready for August camp and contribute in the Aug. 30 season opener against Indiana State at Memorial Stadium.

“I feel great,” he says. “My body was able to recover faster than doctors expected. I'm getting back to full speed and strength.”

As for the spring break accident …

Isaac says the waist-level water wasn't rough when he and friends Mitch McCune, Nick Stoner and Ty Smith went in on a late mid-March afternoon. Then the waves started coming in harder and faster and higher.

“I was being pushed out. I realized I was in trouble when I was being thrust out farther than I wanted. I kind of panicked. I realized it was time to go back in, and when I tried, I got swept out farther.”

Isaac says he's a good swimmer who has spent plenty of vacation time at beaches, but this time was different.

“Everything was kind of a blur because I was panicking and trying to get back in. I couldn't. Then I grabbed Mitch and basically he pulled me in, and (Smith and Stoner) helped as well.”

Doctors at Sarasota Memorial Hospital put him in a medically induced coma for a couple of days to allow his lungs to heal. His parents flew down. IU coaches visited him. So did teammates Stoner, Smith, Ralph Green, Tyler Burgett, Damon Graham, Anthony Davis and Dawson Fletcher.

Griffith says he doesn't remember those visits, but that his brain activity soared when he heard his teammates' voices.

“They said my (scan) numbers were ridiculous. They said it was one of the highest numbers they've seen.”

Coach Kevin Wilson visited him after he woke up. This wasn't Wilson as demanding coach pushing for more than some want to give.

“We had a great time talking together, just one on one, talking about everything,” Isaac says. “It really changes your perspective on someone. You see him (on the football field) as a hard-nosed guy. But he's really a good guy, a great person.”

Will Isaac remember that when Wilson chews him out for some football transgression?

In theory, anyway.

Isaac says he is not afraid to go back in the water. He insists he will go to swimming pools and beaches.

“It's not like I won't jump off diving boards anymore. I will. But I'll be more cautious. I'll be the guy always watching people around me to make sure everything is OK.”

Isaac says the only lingering physical effect is a scar on his tongue from where he was biting on the breathing tube.

“That bugs me a little bit.”

He coughs occasionally because of the pneumonia, but he says that's normal and will soon clear up. He says he wants to “get better as fast as I can,” but insists he will “take it slow,” although sometimes he picks up a football because, well, a guy has to do something to feel the love.

He laughs when he says this, which is appropriate given, in ancient Hebrew, Isaac means, “He laughs.” This is a time for laughter, for tears, for working to regain what was lost. Mostly, though, it's a time for thanks.

Just ask Kim Griffith.

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.


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