After injury, teen receives care package from Warriors
Maki Becker, The Buffalo News
In his 20 years of coaching high school football, Jason Przybysz has seen his share of injuries on the field.
The tackle Sept. 18 that left one of his junior varsity players, Douglas Hunt, with two broken bones in his ankle was an especially brutal one.
But it was the response to that injury that Przybysz, now Cleveland Hill's athletic director, said surprised him the most.
"It is one of those types of stories. It's about athletics, but it's not just that," he said of the response by those connected with the opposing team.
Here's what happened:
It was third quarter of the JV game between the Salamanca Warriors and Cleve Hill's Golden Eagles. The score was tied.
Hunt was running the ball down the field when Carmine Pierce tackled him on Salamanca's 25-yard line and Hunt's foot got stuck underneath Pierce.
"It was not in the right place. You could hear it. You could see it," said Przybysz.
Pierce could feel the ankle bones break underneath him as the players fell, his mother, Terri Remsen, said.
Remsen watched in horror as Hunt tried to stand up and then crumpled in agony, letting out a scream.
Her son jumped up "and was freaking out," Remsen said. Pierce ran to the sidelines and paced back and forth, not knowing what to do. He then took a knee along with everyone else on the field as EMTs tended to Hunt. It took almost a half-hour to get Hunt ready to be transferred to an ambulance.
Pierce felt awful.
"He didn't know what to do with his emotions. He felt really bad about the situation," his mother said. He didn't have a chance to apologize.
Pierce had done nothing wrong, by all accounts.
It was a "totally clean tackle," Przybysz said. "Everything textbook. It's how you would coach it. Doug was trying to run the ball and he just got stuck."
On Monday, Remsen, who is active with the Salamanca Warriors' booster club, contacted Przybysz. She didn't say she was Pierce's mom, but asked about Hunt's condition.
He relayed that Hunt had undergone surgery.
She asked about things Hunt liked. Favorite team? Favorite player?
Przybysz asked Hunt's friends and found out that while Hunt doesn't have a favorite NFL team, he does have a favorite player, former Buffalo Bill Marshawn Lynch, who gained fame with the Seattle Seahawks.
Remsen made a "get well" board and everyone on the Warriors, including her son, signed it. In the meantime, she ordered an official Seattle Seahawks football autographed by Lynch. She packed that into a box and then filled it with Halloween-sized packages of Skittles, Lynch's favorite candy, which he calls his "power pellets."
On Friday, Remsen drove from Salamanca to Cheektowaga, figuring she'd just drop the package off at the high school to be delivered to Hunt when he returned to school.
It turned out Hunt was already back at school, although in a big cast and using a wheelchair to get around.
When the administration found out about Remsen's care package, the superintendent, principal, athletic staff and others accompanied her to Hunt's classroom. He happened to be in Przybysz's "Introduction to High School" class.
Remsen handed the box to Hunt as he sat in his wheelchair at the front of the class, wearing a blue Covid-19 mask. He opened the box and unwrapped the football.
"Signed by Marshawn Lynch," he can be heard saying on a video a classmate took.
"We heard that was a favorite player of yours," a man's voice said.
"Yes," he said.
The classmates applauded and Remsen bent down to give Hunt a hug.
Remsen was touched by how appreciative Hunt seemed. She said she just wanted to do something for this young man who had endured something that every parent of a football player fears for their own child.
"I thought it would be nice to do," she said, something in the Salamanca team's spirit.
Przybysz sent an email to Salamanca High School's principal to share what had just taken place at their school.
Cleve Hill's administration asked if they could share the tale on Twitter.
"It feels like a feel-good story. Sure," he said.