Navy quarterback Rafi Montalvo’s life changed when he was seriously injured in a car accident on Thanksgiving night in 2012.
His remarkable quest to return to the playing field after being placed in a medically induced coma for three weeks and undergoing months and months of rehabilitation ultimately came up short. On Wednesday, Montalvo told the Baltimore Sun that he has left the Naval Academy and will no longer attempt to play football.
Montalvo, 21, returned to his home in South Florida last month and after a visit with doctors at the University of Miami, he was told that playing football again would put him at risk “because of the scarring he sustained on his brain as a result of the accident.”
Doctors at Miami looked at Montalvo’s MRI and told him that he was “very lucky to be walking and talking” like he is. Montalvo, who resigned from the Naval Academy last month after being told he needed to boost his grades before potentially returning to the football field, had hoped to be cleared by doctors and resume his playing career at another school.
“Rafi’s an amazing young man,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “The dedication and perseverance he had in his rehab, to survive his traumatic ordeal, but to also do all the rehab and all the things that the military put him through (and) the medical people put him through to get back to the academy was a pretty strenuous deal.”
Montalvo was the Midshipmen’s third-string quarterback as a freshman and was going to travel with the team to Philadelphia for the 2012 Army-Navy game before the accident occurred.
“For him to come back to the academy was a great accomplishment. I’m disappointed that it couldn’t work out for him, but I’m super happy where he is in his life,” Niumatalolo said. “I’m so grateful that Rafi is still here and being able to function as a normal person.”
Doctors at Navy were “hesitant” to let Montalvo play even though he had regained all cognitive skills and now that he is back in Florida, Montalvo plans to volunteer as a coach with his former high school team in Miami.
“We have nothing but admiration for the whole academy experience and how we were treated and how well Rafi was treated through obviously hard times,” Rafi’s father, Ralph, said. “The way I look at this is that I’m happy to have Rafi here. I don’t look at this as a tragedy or any other way. At the end, he’s always wanted to be a coach. He’s ending his football career a couple years before he should have.”
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