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McKamey family statement: Sophomore slotback did not absorb "extreme contact"

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the parents of Navy football player Will McKamey said they do not blame anyone for the fact he collapsed during a spring practice and dismissed suggestions the youngster should not have resumed his playing career after previously suffering a brain injury.

Will McKamey remained in critical condition at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Monday night, according to hospital staff. The Tennessee native underwent cranial surgery on Saturday afternoon at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore to reduce swelling and bleeding on his brain and has been in a coma ever since.

That is not uncommon in the case of severe head injuries as doctors will often place patients in a medically-induced coma in order to hasten the healing process.

"To the thousands of you out there worrying and praying, we send our most sincere thanks! Today, Will's condition is very much the same as yesterday. We are counting this as a blessing due to the fact the brain is very slow in the healing process," read the statement, which was issued jointly by Randy and Kara McKamey, who flew from Knoxville to Baltimore on Saturday to be with their 19-year-old son. "We are in for a long road. Please understand that 'no change' is still expected and seen as a blessing at this point. We are taking it one day at a time."

Will McKamey was going through light drills during the first padded practice of spring camp on Saturday morning when he came to the sideline and complained to a team trainer that his head hurt. The sophomore slotback took off his helmet then collapsed on the field and was immediately attended to by medical personnel on site.

McKamey was transported by ambulance to another location on the Naval Academy campus then airlifted to the Shock Trauma facility. Sources told The Capital that paramedics onboard the Medevac helicopter had to revive the midshipman en route to the hospital.

Members of the Navy football video staff film every practice from multiple angles and assistant coaches have carefully reviewed the tapes to determine whether McKamey sustained a blow to the head that might have caused the injury. Sources told The Capital that multiple staff members could not identify the 5-foot-9, 170-pound slotback suffering any type of significant impact that might have triggered the episode.

"One thing I want you all to know is that Will did not sustain a bad hit or unusual or extreme contact in practice Saturday," the McKamey family statement read. "The Navy coaches have pored through the films of practice and seen nothing more than Will carrying the football normally, doing what he truly loves."

McKamey suffered a similar incident while playing for Grace Christian Academy in 2012, collapsing during a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter of a game at South Pittsburg. He was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, where he spent a few days in the intensive care unit while doctors monitored brain bleeding and swelling.

McKamey did not undergo surgery that time, but the injury ended his season and prevented him from suiting up for Grace Christian in the playoffs. He would later be selected as the top running back among Class A schools in Tennessee after totaling more than 2,000 rushing and receiving yards as a senior.

The latest family statement confirmed what sources had earlier told The Capital - that multiple doctors evaluated McKamey and cleared him to resume playing football at the collegiate level. As a freshman at Navy in 2013, the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder did not see any varsity action, but did play in junior varsity contests.

"Since his prior accident in 2012, Will has been seen by four different neurosurgeons and had 4-6 CAT scans and MRIs to rule out any issue and clear him for contact," the McKamey family statement said. "After his prior incident, he went without any contact for over nine months just to be safe. We feel obviously there is more going on in his brain than we could have ever detected."

A Naval Academy spokesman said on Sunday that all candidates for service academies are given extensive pre-admission physicals. Commander John Schofield, public information officer at the academy, said the "standards for medical qualification for a commissioned program in the military" are conducted through the Department of Defense's Medical Examination Review Board.

"If something is identified in that evaluation that requires a waiver, then you go through the waiver process," Schofield said.

Due to federal privacy rules spelled out in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Schofield could neither confirm nor deny whether McKamey needed a waiver. However, multiple sources have told The Capital that doctors affiliated with the Navy football program had serious reservations about McKamey returning to the field and that the family was asked to sign a waiver.

"I want to be clear that the Navy football program nor us as his parents would have ever allowed him to be in a dangerous situation," Randy and Kara McKamey wrote. "We don't know why this happened, we can only have faith that God's plan is the perfect plan and only He can be the ultimate healer and source of comfort for all of us during this time!"

Media interest over Will McKamey's hospitalization has been intense with two television stations from the Knoxville area sending news teams to the Baltimore-Annapolis area to provide reports. Earlier on Monday, the McKamey family announced in a statement that it would not accommodate multiple requests to speak with print and television reporters.

"We wish to thank everyone for their prayers and support during this difficult time. We are a strong Christian family and our faith is sustaining us. Will demonstrates his faith every day as a wonderful young Christian man of whom we are so proud," Randy and Kara McKamey said. "We are not granting media interviews while we focus solely on Will's care. We ask for you continued prayers, and to please respect our privacy."

Navy cancelled its football practice scheduled for Monday and head coach Ken Niumatalolo has yet to comment on McKamey's injury. Navy athletics spokesman Scott Strasemeier said Niumatalolo, who has spent considerable time at the hospital since Saturday afternoon, would address the media following practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk spoke about the situation for the first time on Monday night after being contacted by The Capital.

"It is absolutely heart-wrenching that we're in this position and the entire Naval Academy family has been emotionally invested in supporting members of the McKamey family in their time of need," Gladchuk said. "I think the sense of unity within the football program has been illustrated by the way everyone has rallied around the family. I'm proud of the players, coaches and support staff for the tremendous outpouring of love and concern they have shown for this young man. We are all praying for the best."

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