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Templeton community rallies support for critically injured high school football player

Templeton High School football player Isaac Lindsey (left) with friend Nate Avery.
Templeton High School football player Isaac Lindsey (left) with friend Nate Avery.

Just down the road from Templeton High School early Sunday afternoon, nearly 300 friends, teammates and community residents huddled together to create signs of support for injured Templeton football player Isaac Lindsey — and pose for a photo in the form of his jersey No. 32.

Lindsey, 16, suffered a head injury in Friday night’s game against San Luis Obispo. As of 7:45 p.m. Sunday, he remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center following surgery Saturday.

It remained unclear Sunday exactly what caused the injury.

Lindsey’s family could not be reached for comment, but the high school junior's mother, Jenny Lindsey, addressed her son’s injury in three public Facebook posts this weekend.

“We are learning that the first five days of head trauma are the most critical days and we are comfortable and confident in the staff at Sierra Vista that they will help us through the worst of this injury,” she wrote in one post. “We are overwhelmed with the support of our community and so very grateful to each one of you for lifting us up in prayer.”

Lindsey also posted that her son underwent surgery to relieve swelling on his brain.

Brandy Blackburn-Herndon helped organize Sunday’s event to create signs to hang throughout the community. Among those attending were players and coaches from nearby Atascadero High School.

“Our hope is that when Isaac comes home, they drive him through town so they can see (the signs) and so they know that we can’t fix things, but we’re here and we’re thinking of him, and we’re praying for him every day,” Blackburn-Herndon said.

Supporters have also raised more than $57,000 to help the Lindsey family cover medical expenses on the website GoFundMe.com.

Lindsey’s best friend and teammate Nate Avery was at the park Sunday, his hands covered in paint and glitter. After hearing that Lindsey was injured Friday night, Avery said he immediately approached him on the bench.

“I said, ‘Hey, are you alright? What’s wrong?’ and he didn’t answer me,” Avery said. “I ran up the stadium … and got his mom. We sprinted down, and we were just there for him.”

Avery, who has known Lindsey for three years, said football and the ups and downs of high school life have created an inseparable bond between them.

“He’s the guy I would call when something was wrong,” Avery said.

Avery described Lindsey, who was born in Templeton but has lived the past 10 years in Atascadero, as “a country boy” who loves to restore old tractors. He laughed Sunday as he shared a story of the time he, Lindsey and Lindsey’s older brother, Louis, a senior on Templeton’s football team, drove one of the restored tractors to Starbucks.

Lindsey also enjoys lifting weights, and he’s the “strongest guy on our team,” Avery said. Teammate Colton Wiggins, who grew up playing football with Lindsey, described him as a brother. “He cares about you more than he cares about himself.”

Just as Lindsey’s strength impressed his teammates, it’s the strong bond of the community that impressed those at the park Sunday.

“I never expected this kind of support,” said Avery’s mother, Tanya Avery, who considers Lindsey to be part of her family. “It’s just incredible.”

On Saturday, she began fundraising efforts through GoFundMe.com.

“They have just helped us so much with Nate,” she said, fighting tears. “Isaac is like another brother to him.”

Avery said she has been in touch with Jenny Lindsey and said the Lindsey family, including Isaac’s younger sister, Mattie, brother, Louis and father, Michael, are doing the best they can considering the circumstances.

“Isaac's needs at the moment are to rest comfortably and quietly in ICU for the next five days in an induced state,” wrote Jenny Lindsey in her Facebook post Saturday.

Templeton football coach Dan Loney attended Sunday’s event in the park along with other members of the football coaching staff. He led team members in prayer before they spread out to place signs around town.

“Right now my main concern is making sure that mentally (my team) is OK,” Loney said. “We want to make sure that not only our teammates but Isaac’s brother and sister are taken care of, too.”

Loney, who said he has reviewed the video of the game several times to determine what might have caused Lindsey’s injury, said, “At this point, it was nothing big, and I’m just going to kind of leave it at that. There was nothing more than a normal play.”

On Saturday, San Luis Obispo High School football coach Pat Johnston told The Tribune that a review of the video showed that Lindsey, a running back, was blocking for a teammate when a San Luis Obispo defender put his forearm into Lindsey’s chest. After the play, Lindsey grabbed his head and ran off the field.

“It didn’t look like helmet-to-helmet,” Johnston said.

When asked Sunday if Lindsey had reported any medical issues before Friday night, Loney said no.

In one of her Facebook posts, Lindsey’s mother addressed concerns raised by others on social media about the safety of football.

“(Isaac) would never want this unusual injury to be used to solicit parents to be concerned about letting their kids play this sport,” she wrote. “He has played football since second grade and never had an injury of this nature — the closest to it being when he broke both arms at one time FALLING FROM A TREE. This incident is not the norm … it was a freak accident. That is all it was.”

Fundraising efforts will continue for the Lindsey family through the GoFundMe page and in the form of T-shirts bearing “#32” to be sold at Friday night’s game against Cabrillo in Templeton.

Dan Butz, father of Lindsey’s teammate Jaret Butz, has also organized a fundraising cookout to be held Oct. 4 at the American Legion in Templeton.

“It just shows what a great place that we live in,” Loney said.

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