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PAYSON — Video of a hard hit between a Utah County coach and a pee wee football player has stirred quite a controversy. Some say the coach stepped onto the field and clobbered the kid, while others say it was the player who ran into the coach.
Wednesday afternoon, two witnesses to the event came forward to share what they saw with KSL News. While the video at the center of the controversy shows one scenario, these witnesses have two very different interpretations.
The home video, recorded by the injured athlete's mother, shows the Payson 13-year-old make contact with Mapleton assistant pee wee football coach Nathan Harris. Michael Nelson, another assistant coach for Mapleton, says he saw it all from about five yards away.
Right before the kid was going to come out of bounds, our middle linebacker pushed him out of bounds right into Coach Harris.
–Michael Nelson, Mapleton assistant coach
"Right before the kid was going to come out of bounds, our middle linebacker pushed him out of bounds right into Coach Harris," Nelson said, emphasizing that Harris never moved toward the kid.
"We were right in between the out-of-bounds line and the player line," Nelson explained. "There's a ribbon of about 1 to 2 yards we were standing right in the middle of it."
Nelson told KSL News Harris had his son standing next to him, and he believes the assistant coach was protecting the boy from getting hit.
But a player from the Payson team, seventh-grader Matthew Van Moos, saw it differently. He said he witnessed the incident from about 10 feet away.
"I was running down the sideline and I saw Levi, who was a foot away from the sideline," Van Moos said, "and the coach took a step in bounds and put his hands to Levi's face and just took a step back, crossed his arms and didn't say anything."
Van Moos is best friends with the injured boy, who is now out for the season with a concussion. "He actually doesn't care about it. He just wants to keep going on," Van Moos said.
According to Van Moos, his team's football coach is also telling the team to move on — but that's one play Harris will have to rule out for now.
"It was completely out of character for him to do anything in anyway that's malicious," Nelson said.