By Mark Anderson
LIBERTY, TX. — “Don’t quit.”
“Finish what you started.”
“It’s not over till it’s over.”
These are a few adages of our sports world. They are used mainly by coaches, and sometimes parents, to encourage athletes to give their best, never give up, and under no circumstances to quit.
Well, let’s say almost any circumstances. There is always an exception to the rule. That exception happened last Friday night at War Memorial Stadium in Liberty, on the Shepherd Pirate sidelines. With just under four minutes left, the exception to the rule came into play.
On this play, Keegan Turner scored to make it 34-12. But it is what happened during the play that changed everything.
John Salcido was doing what he had been taught — to never give up on a play. Keegan Turner burst into the open, and Salcido, although he had no chance to catch him, never gave up.
However, on the chase, he got caught awkwardly as he tried to catch Turner, and another hit he received took him down.
“Well, when the hit happened, I was confused why my neck was hurting,” Salcido told the San Jacinto News-Times. “Then, as I stumbled to the sideline, my neck was just hurting so bad I had to take my helmet off.”
He was immediately met on the sidelines by the trainer.
“She felt something was wrong with my neck, and made me stay in one position,” Salcido said.
At this point, head coach Miles Robison radioed the press box at War Memorial Stadium and asked that EMS be sent immediately. Everyone — players and fans alike — got extremely quiet as Salcido began to receive the first medical attention of the night — but by no means the last.
That’s when the players for both the Pirates and the Panthers gathered in a circle to pray for John. It was not the first time these two teams prayed together on the football field. Last season, both gathered before the game to pray for a Panther player who had cancer.
The good news, according to Coach Robison, is that player is in total remission.
It Got Very Emotional
Back on the sidelines with Salcido, things were getting very emotional, and not without reason. An ambulance was called, and remarkably, got lost on the way. Meanwhile, Salcido’s thoughts started setting in.
“The only thing I could think of at the time is I’m done with football — something I have worked extremely hard at,” Salcido said Sunday. “I had never expected to get injured like that. I got extremely emotional.”
Something happened as the wait for the ambulance was going on that Salcido distinctly remembers.
“This girl had come behind me and asked to pray over me,” he said. “I didn’t know who it was. I have never heard the voice before, I felt, and she prayed over me.”
That’s when Salcido’s emotions kicked in.
“I just got so emotional. I did not know what to think,” Salcido said.
A Time. . . to Quit
Meanwhile, a decision was being made by both coaches after the prayer. Coach Taylor asked if Coach Robison wished to continue. They both agreed that with the delay in the ambulance getting there, the players being distracted, and the emotions that all were feeling, the game needed to end right there.
That is exactly what happened. After Salcido’s injury, both sides mutually agreed to call the rest of the game off.
It is not something you see every day. In fact, it’s a rarity that either team will quit during a game. To have both teams agree to end the game — not just Shepherd — is both surprising, and shows a great deal of sportsmanship on both sides.
If there ever was a time to stop a game, that was it.
Not the End for Salcido
Many times, when a player sustains an injury that requires a player to be transported to the hospital on a stretcher as Salcido was, they almost certainly have played their last game.
Meet John Salcido.
Salcido is not finished playing football. As soon as the effects of his neck injury are healed, he will strap on the pads once more and rejoin his teammates on the field. The miracle is that he will be able to do that.
Salcido has bigger dreams, however. One of those dreams is to serve in the military. Once in the military, his ambition is to be a Navy Seal.
One thing you can say about Salcido — he has heart. He plays with it, and has great dreams for himself — but not just for himself — to serve as a part of a team.
That is John Salcido, in a nutshell.
The next W is for Salcido
Salcido has been the embodiment of this team at its’ core — a bunch of hard-working athletes with high ambitions and a “don’t quit” spirit.
Nick Truelove clearly expects to see him back on the field.
“Prayers went up, and blessings came down,” Truelove said, “but while he’s getting to 100 percent, we’ve got to step up to fill his place.”
Offensive lineman Zachariah Taylor put it best.
“The next W is for John,” he said.
It is not often you see a young man get carted off the field, as John was who will have a chance to resume his normal life. This young man will — and he asked to make sure he thanked both San Jacinto and Liberty counties for all the phone calls, emails and messages he has received. While the two schools will always remain rivals, in a very real sense, Salcido brought both communities together in a way that could not have been predicted.
However, Salcido’s story is proof that in athletics, there truly is a right time to quit. Both teams made that mutual decision last Friday night. Liberty walked away with the win, but today, Salcido walks with something greater — his life.