PAYSON — A coach accused of pushing a little league football player and causing him to receive a concussion during a rivalry game last week maintains he did not push the player in his first public statement.
Witnesses, parents and players have stepped up to share their sides of the story in the last week, but Nathan Harris, the volunteer assistant football coach, only spoke out publicly Friday. No charges have been made, but he does face second-degree felony child abuse.
The incident, especially the video, he says, has damaged his life and reputation.
"It's been rough. It's been especially hard on my family," Harris said. "…Just seeing it go all over the Internet, everywhere. My business is going to be impacted, so I'm going to have to pick up the pieces from that and my family, we'll be OK."
He claims the 13-year-old player ran into him, and he never moved toward the boy.
"The play came around the edge and looked like it was headed up the field and at the last second one of our linebackers pushed the guy out of bounds and landed in my chest," Harris said.
Harris says the video shows he did not step over the white line, but it does show his arms springing out, making accusers believe he pushed the player. He maintains he didn't push, but with little time to react, did so out of instinct.
"My instinct was to cover my chest," Harris said. "As I got hit, my body went back two or three yards but my arms continued out. …From the point that he gets pushed out-of-bounds until he makes impact or contact with me was about 3/10 of a second."
As for why he didn't help the player up after the fall?
"The player pops up. People ask, ‘why didn't you help the player up?' He was fine, he jumped up, none of us thought there was any problem, none of the coaches moved," Harris said.
In the video, the player heads back into the huddle and continues on with the next play.
Harris heads to court on Monday.