Matthew Blea One Year Later - NBC Bay Area

Matthew Blea One Year Later

Severly injured high school star returns to Big Bone game.



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    Matthew Blea suffered a brain injury during a football game last Thanksgiving.

    The hit brought silence to the crowded stadium at San Jose City College a year ago.

    Matthew Blea's head hit hard on the artificial turf during the first quarter of the Thanksgiving Big Bone game between San Jose's Lincoln High School and Blea's San Jose High Academy.

    It happened right in front of me.

    I remember seing Blea stagger to the sidelines, then collapse.

    The next 15 minutes were intense.

    Our NBC Bay Area cameras captured the audio of a frantic coach trying to keep his player alive.

    "Squeeze my hand Matthew," urged the coach. "Squeeze my hand."  

    Then everyone realized it wasn't just a coach begging number 21 to stay awake.  That coach was also his father.

     "He squeezed my hand," said Dave Blea on Wednesday, one day before the one year anniversary of that traumatic day. "I told him 'You're not going away from me. It's not your time,'" said Dave Blea.

    Blea and his injured son spoke exclusively with NBC Bay Area on Wednesday, walking on the Bulldog football field, thankful the star running back was almost fully recovered.

    "It's a miracle," said Dave Blea. "His inner strength, he gets from his mother, it's a miracle he's here right now. We live every day differently now."

    Matthew Blea doesn't remember the hit, or his father's pleas to stay awake.

    "I'm not 100 percent," said Matthew. "I stil have short term memory loss, and some things, sometimes I forget."

    After three surgeries, Matthew's vision isn't completely back on his right eye.

    His brain was injured, but not his mentality.

    "It's actually been great," said Matthew. "That's the only problem. I (was) at home for 9 months, but other than that, it's been great."

    Matthew was able to go back to class at the beginning of his senior year.

    One thing he won't be able to do again is play football.

    But tomorrow, on Thanksgiving, he'll be back on the turf at City College, helping his Bulldogs from the sidelines, urging them to fight, and bring home the Bone.

    "Just looking at him and seeing him every day, I remember how lucky we are, how lucky he is to be alive," said Dave Blea.

    Lucky, but perhaps not surprsied.

    After all, Matthew Blea is a fighter, and he's a Bulldog.