Each day is Little step to healing

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Blended lasagna, chicken soup and mashed potatoes … Thomas Little might as well have punted. It is no wonder that the Lincoln High School senior linebacker has lost 30 pounds since Aug. 24 when he was seriously injured in a car accident. The wires in his mouth do not allow him to digest solid food. Little can move his lips just enough to speak. Little was not left out when his family recently enjoyed cheesecake. A slice was put in the blender. The wires will be removed once his right jaw heals. It was broken in three places when the car Little was driving slammed into a tree on Nicolaus Road about 200 yards west of Joiner Parkway. “I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know the full extent. I was not aware of the severity,” he said.” I felt my face when I was still sitting in the car. When I moved my tongue, I tasted blood.” Little’s mind raced as he waited for help to arrive. The 17-year-old came face to face with his mortality. “I wondered if I’d ever see all the people I love again,” he said. “It was just a split-second thought. I didn’t want to think about that. My lungs were inflating, so I knew I was still breathing.” His jaw was broken, as was his right eye socket. Little’s father, Tim, considers his son lucky. “I was very surprised there were no cervical or brain injuries,” Tim said. “Those were the miracles.” It will be a miracle if Little can play football again at Lincoln High. The Zebras played their opener three days after the crash, and the team has dedicated the season to its defensive captain. Three of his teammates – Christian Perkins, Tyler Morgan and Michael Holt – visited Little on the day of the opener at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Morgan was a frequent visitor to the hospital. “I got such great support from him the whole time,” Little said. “I could hear his voice and he was very optimistic.” Little received text messages with updates from friends during the Aug. 27 game at Woodcreek in Roseville. “My phone was overloaded with messages,” he said. “I tried to picture the game in my head. I was disappointed that I couldn’t be there.” The Zebras won in dramatic fashion, overcoming a 14-point deficit and going ahead with seconds to play. Morgan hoisted Little’s No. 42 jersey as the players celebrated after the 28-21 victory. Tears filled the eyes of Little’s brother, Joe, a junior lineman who appreciated the support for his sibling. “It’s nice to know everybody cares about him so much,” Joe said after the game. “Thomas isn’t here, so we had to step it up for him.” Perkins addressed his teammates after the game, and the quarterback told them about his trip to the hospital to see Little. “It’s all about heart,” Perkins said. “(Little is) not just any player. He’s the heart of the team.” Little never knew how much he meant to his teammates. He hopes he can repay them by returning to the field this season. Despite his injuries, he is determined to play again for the Zebras. “There’s a good chance of it happening,” he said. His father is not counting him out. As Tim said, “he has as much football left in him as he wants to play.”