Talk about tough. The top scorer for Radnor (Pa.) High's soccer team, senior Jack Norton suffered a fractured skull and a brain injury during the fall season. Now, only a few months later, he's already back on the Pennsylvania playing fields as Raiders' lacrosse team's most dangerous offensive threat.
Norton shared his harrowing story on his NXT 2015 club lacrosse team's website.
"He's competing as hard as we've ever seen him do, especially with him knowing that he wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to play the game," Radnor lacrosse coach John Begier told nxtlacrosse.com.
During a soccer game on Oct. 3, Norton left his feet to head a ball in mid-air, and Strath Haven's Will Hotham collided with him, sending both players to the ground, according to gametime.pa. While Hotham reportedly experienced a severe concussion, Radnor suffered a "fractured skull and light brain bleeding.
"I went up for a head ball and the Strath Haven kid came in late and hit my head on the side in the air," Norton told nxtlacrosse.com, "and I landed on my head on the turf. I have no recollection of that night."
As Norton's father explained, his son's lips turned blue and he had trouble breathing — a frightening moment for any parent — but thankfully his mother is a registered nurse and began treating her son. As a result, Radnor and Strath Haven agreed to call the game as Norton was rushed to the hospital.
"Personally, I'm not the closest friends with Jack, we were just starting to become friends this year, but I was bawling,' Radnor soccer teammate James Cellucci told the local paper in October. "I was crying my eyes out. It was one of the saddest moments of my life, and as a team, we decided we couldn't finish the game. The next day, we came back and said, Jack will be fine — that's what we heard — and we just started focusing again and we kept going, and we're dedicating the rest of the season to Jack.'"
Inspired by Norton's road to recovery, the Raiders reached November's district soccer tournament. Meanwhile, Norton began experiencing severe concussion symptoms during a three-week stay in a darkened hospital room. Mandated to spend another three weeks at home with a towel over his head and no electronic stimulation (that's no small task for a teenager), Norton lost 15-20 pounds.
"I didn't know if I'd be able to play lacrosse this season at that point because I had a pretty major concussion," Norton told nxtlacrosse.com. "I was meeting with a lot of doctors and getting as many opinions as I could. I tried to be as diligent as possible with the medicine and the rehab so I could get back as soon as possible. After two months, I started to work out a lot to finally get my strength back and then I realized I might be able to play."
Slowly, Norton went back to school, continued his rehab and ultimately returned to the lacrosse team this spring. In the first six games of the season, he already has 15 goals and five assists for the returning co-Central League champion Raiders (5-1), capturing Player of the Month honors.
"He was out almost six months, but when he got back on the field, you could see that he was bigger and stronger than last year," Begier added. "He committed to lifting even though he wasn't playing in the fall and winter. Physically, he's a different player than he was last year and with that injury and not knowing if he'd be back, he's made the most of every minute out there. He's a heck of an athlete who can run all day and can really shoot the ball, but he's worked on his fundamentals. By being fundamental in how he plays and doing all the little things, his game has gone to another level. We've needed him to step up with the injuries that we've had, but he's the kind of guy who can handle the pressure."
Truer words were never spoken.