Crash survivor grateful to play football again

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PLAIN CITY, Utah (AP) -- More than a year ago, Blake Nauta was presumed dead in a car crash.

The teenager's 1985 Toyota MR-2 looked like a smashed aluminum can. Rescuers couldn't get vital signs so they turned their attention to the driver of a pickup truck.

But an hour later, workers pulling Nauta from the wreckage heard him gasp for air. His broken body was rushed to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, and he slipped into a coma.

"They knew he was alive, but they didn't know how long he would live," mother Judy Nauta recalled.

Fifteen months later, Nauta is a senior at Fremont High School. He's lost the use of an important nerve, and he's not fast as he used to be.

But he's alive, optimistic -- and playing football, No. 52 for the Silver Wolves.

"He's been an inspiration to me," defensive coordinator Ross Arnold said. "He is what high school sports is all about. 'Never' isn't a word in his vocabulary."

Nauta has played with the junior varsity, but the defensive tackle won't be satisfied until he can start a game with the varsity.

"He chewed me out the other day," Arnold said. "He said to quit babying him and that we weren't properly coaching him because of his injuries. He doesn't want us to feel sorry for him."

Nauta crashed his car after saying good night to his girlfriend and falling asleep at the wheel within three miles of home in June 2006. Fortunately, his girlfriend buckled his seat belt just minutes earlier.

Nauta came out of the coma after three days. He lost 40 pounds during his three-week hospital stay but was determined to play football again.

Nauta regained much of his strength and had a few minor surgeries on his feet for the sole purpose of playing football.

"The impossible can happen," he said. "I look at some of the kids who have quit the team and think, 'What do you have to worry about?' You have no limitations and every chance to become better.

"Being successful is 90 percent in your mind and 10 percent physical. That is what makes the great players," Nauta said. ------ Information from: Standard-Examiner,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-09-19-07 1629MDT

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