Finish what you've started. Jace Connor began his varsity football career as a champion and that's exactly how he'd like to go out. He's been a leader and that hasn't changed.
"I just feel it's one of my obligations now that I was a two year starter and I kind of know the program and what we do day-by-day and game-by-game," Connor said.
What has changed, is Connor's ability to take charge on the field of play. This past July, the Ethan-native almost lost his life.
"It was the worst phone call you could ever want to get regarding your kid," Vicki Connor said. "He was laying stomach down on a pallet of boards. You could tell he was talking but it was just really scary because he just kept saying his back hurt."
Connor was working at Ethan Co-Op Lumber stacking columns, each one about six feet long and 1,000-pounds. One of those hefty cement blocks fell from the top of the stack hitting Connor below.
"I actually didn't feel much right away until I got up and tried to walk and then that dropped me back down to my knees. Then I got up and walked again about 30' and that was about it for me," Connor said.
The block just missed Connor's head. While he escaped a potentially life-threatening injury, he wasn't out of the woods. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital and within 24 hours of the accident, the 17-year-old, wondering if he'd be able to walk again, was prepping for a 2 1/2 hour back surgery.
It turns out Connor fractured vertebrae at the bottom of his spine. Those were fused together during a successful operation. He'd walk again. Unfortunately, when hearing about a three-to-four month recovery timeline, Connor realized his dream of being under center during his senior season was out of the question.
"That was the hardest thing. He started to cry of course and we all did. He wanted to call his coach himself because he's very close to him. I would say that was even harder to sit there and listen to him tell his coach the news as he's laying in the ER. It was very sad," Vicki said.
"It's rough. Every day it got a little easier but still just being out here, it's just kind of hard seeing everybody else practice and not be able to," Jace said.
While he can't practice and walks around in a back-brace, when the Seahawks take a field for any reason, Connor is still there. From drills to games, coach Jeff Van Leur is happy to have him and he's become an inspiration to the players who've jumped out to a 2-1 record so far this season.
"He's here all the time. Even had to use the golf cart the first couple days but he was there and the kids know it. They respect him and knew he was a great leader for us. He's positive all the time. It's just like having another coach on the field for us and we're very thankful for that," Seahawks coach Jeff Van Leur said.
"Every day, hasn't missed one I don't think except maybe a few minutes late because of an appointment or something. He's determined to be there every day," Vicki said.
From giving tips to the Seahawks new quarterback to passing along words of encouragement to others, Connor hasn't walked away from his guys when he easily could have. He's grateful to have the chance to help in any way and he's making the most out of his situation.
"Lucky to be here, if he would've been inches closer it would have fell directly on him. We consider the accident the worst thing but yet he's alive and able to walk. We're very blessed to have him here," Vicki said.
"Like I said, day-by-day, it gets easier, a little easier, knowing that I'm able to walk and still here," Jace said.