Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette Jhalaniy Hassan, the mother of injured freshman defensive back Qamari Hassan, flips the coin Saturday before Saint Francis' game against Concordia (Michigan) at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium.
Friday, October 13, 2017 1:10 am
Injured teammate inspires Cougars
Freshman visits team for first time since career-ending hit
GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis at Siena Heights
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: O'Laughlin Stadium, Adrian, Mich.
Radio: 106.3 FM
Qamari Hassan's presence on the Saint Francis football team was just more than a week old, but now his inspiration for the top-ranked Cougars will last a lot longer.
The freshman defensive back was seriously injured in a practice during the offseason. His physical improvement from that paralyzing head and neck injury, which required surgery to help alleviate pressure on the spinal column, has been uplifting for the undefeated Cougars (6-0, 2-0 MFSA-Mideast) as they hit the road to face Siena Heights (4-0, 2-0) on Saturday.
“He was and will always be a Cougar, but he was really only an active player for about eight days,” co-defensive coordinator Joey Didier said. “To have that much of an impact is special in his regard. Even for me when you are having a bad day, it is like 'Hey, let's put this thing in perspective,' and that guy's best day is a whole lot harder than what we have on our worst days. It has been a constant reminder of how good we have it, and how special this game is and how quickly it can be taken from you.”
In a wheelchair, Hassan returned to D'Arcy Stadium for a practice last week and visited with teammates and coaches.
“It meant a lot to see him walking out on the field; it was just a good moment for the Cougar team,” senior linebacker Spencer Cowherd said. “He has definitely been a huge inspiration for me personally. He has been doing better so that's always good. When it initially happened, it was very scary. It was a real moment for all of us, and it took awhile for us to let it soak in.
“We just to try to stand behind him and support him. Just the way he is able to smile and laugh throughout everything that has happened has brought my spirits up.”
His mother, Jhalaniy, was back at Saint Francis on Saturday to take part in the pregame coin flip for the game against Concordia (Michigan).
“He said he should do his therapy on the field,” Jhalaniy said. “That's what he said. He said he felt like he was back at home. He has so much football around him that he appreciates it, but at the same time he is always worried about all the players.
“He's great. All the support that we have from everyone is just like a light all around us. We appreciate the prayers and the community coming together. It is a blessing being in it, and a miracle being in it.”
Qamari, known as “Q” to his teammates, is scheduled to come home soon, but this time to a house with handicap accessibility. Rehabilitation has been constant for Qamari, and it has began to pay off with thousands of assisted steps daily.
“Going to see him, it is very positive to see his progress,” Didier said of visits to the hospital by teammates and coaches. “He went from not knowing if he was going to ever have a great lifestyle again to knowing that's probably going to happen with hard work and dedication.”
Didier said Qamari's injury was tough on the team as well but has been a reminder of the physicality of the sport and the precious nature of life.
“When that happened to Qamari, it was probably one of the more morbid and scary things I have seen on a football field,” Didier said. “You could hear a pin drop on the football field. Our (medical staff) did an excellent job, and they went and took care of Qamari. The team went to the other side of the field. At that point, you can't just go about your daily business and say 'Hey, let's move the drill down to the other side of the field and let's go back and tackle.' It was one of our last padded practices of camp, and the rest of the practice became two-hand touch and rightfully so. Any tackling period just wasn't happening. A lot of guys were shocked.
“That scrimmage (the next day) started very sloppy in terms of contact, and then naturally as you experience things it isn't like you forget about things but you can't get back into your comfort zone. It probably took us 48-72 hours to get back into 'let's play football,' and it's OK to get back to contact. It really brings to light that injuries are part of the game.”