Doctors feared Wes Haas, an All-State linebacker and running back, would have to sit out his senior season on the Knights football team to recover.
To watch the 17-year-old move now, it's astounding to think he almost died in a June boating accident.
"We just wanted to go to the lake and have fun on the water," Wes recalled.
Wes and some friends had wrapped up their first day of summer football practice. They took a pontoon boat out to Kerr Lake for some fishing. For some reason, the boat jolted suddenly - sending Wes tumbling overboard. His shorts got tangled in the boat's propeller and the blade sliced him across his right hamstring.
"I started checking with my hands to see what had happened. When I put my hand behind my leg, there was a gaping hole," he said.
The wound was severe, but Wes never lost consciousness. He was the one who called his parents to let them know emergency dispatchers were sending a helicopter to take him to the Duke emergency room.
"You get that call that your child is going to go on Life Flight… It's: 'I want him to live.' Once we knew he was stable, then it's: 'Is he going to walk? Is he going to play football again?'" said Wes' mom Christie.
The pictures of Wes' injury are difficult to see. One taken eight days after the accident shows the places where his muscle was severed.
A plastic surgeon grafted skin from his left leg to cover the injury site on his right leg. Doctors warned Wes the recovery would be difficult.
"They told me I wouldn't be walking for five to six months, and I wouldn't be playing sports for a year. When everybody was gone at night, I would cry for two hours and just fall asleep crying. I didn't know what I was going to do. I set goals so high to where the doctors probably called me stupid for not listening to them," said Wes.
He decided to defy the recovery time table. He ditched the wheelchair. He dropped his crutches. He started to walk, then run. About 14 weeks after his injury, Wes was on the football field.
"I was surprised by how fast maybe, but that fact that he's playing football? There was never a doubt in my mind,” said Bob Winstead, Wes’ football coach. “You get a kid like that, who has that kind of drive, and that kind of love for this game, and he can overcome what would be the normal science of an injury.”
In Wes's first game back as a starter, he rushed for more than 100 yards. Now, Wes is looking ahead to senior night this Friday, the start of his 18th birthday weekend.
"I just want people to know that if you go through a hard time, if you give up, then nothing good is going to come out of it," he said.
"We're very thankful," said Christie.
Wes’ extraordinary comeback might continue beyond high school. He's applying to Appalachian State for college, where he's considering trying out to be a walk-on with the Mountaineers football team.
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