The brain injury Navy slotback Will McKamey suffered Saturday in Annapolis came during a noncontact practice drill, his parents wrote in an email distributed by an athletic department spokesman at the academy Monday.
McKamey, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound freshman from Knoxville, Tenn., was airlifted from the practice field to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he underwent surgery and, as of Monday, remained in critical condition in a coma.
The first padded drills of spring practice typically do not include any contact, and McKamey "did not sustain a bad hit or unusual or extreme contact in practice," his parents wrote. "The Navy coaches have poured [sic] through the films of practice and [have] seen nothing more than Will carrying the football normally, doing what he truly loved."
It was the third brain injury for McKamey in the past 18 months. After suffering a concussion early in his senior year at Grace Christian Academy, where his father Randy is the head coach, McKamey returned and later collapsed on the sideline during a late-season game after a two-point-conversion play.
McKamey's parents also wrote that after their son suffered a brain injury that required hospitalization but no surgery, he saw "four different neurosurgeons and had 4-6 CAT scans and MRI's to clear him for contact. After his prior incident, he went without any contact for over nine months just to be safe.
"We obviously feel there is more going on in his brain than we could have ever detected. [We] want to be clear that the Navy football program nor us as parents would have ever allowed him to be in a dangerous situation."
Considering that his second injury generated significant media coverage in Knoxville, McKamey and his parents still could have been asked to sign a waiver by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board to allow him to be admitted to the Naval Academy and play football.
It is not known whether that waiver was signed, though The Capital newspaper in Annapolis cited unnamed sources Monday saying that it had. A Naval Academy spokesman said Monday that school officials are not allowed to release information regarding McKamey's application or about whether any waiver was signed.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who along with several players and athletic director Chet Gladchuk visited the hospital Sunday, postponed practice for a day. Niumatalolo will address the media about McKamey today.
It is the second time Niumatalolo has had to visit a hospital with one of his players in a coma. The day after Thanksgiving in 2012, Niumatalolo flew to South Florida, where former Navy quarterback Rafi Montalvo was in a medically induced coma after suffering a serious head injury in an automobile accident the previous night.
Montalvo was in the coma for 16 days, and after extensive rehabilitation in Florida, Virginia and Maryland, he returned to the academy last summer before leaving in January after not being cleared to continue his football career. Montalvo returned home and is planning on enrolling at Florida International this summer. His football career is over.
McKamey's parents wrote in the statement given to Navy that "Will's condition is very much the same as [Sunday]. We are counting our blessing due to the fact that the brain is very slow in the healing process. We are in for a long road. …We are taking it a day at a time."